Sunday, October 04, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 10/1/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

At 6:30 PM, prior to the regular meeting, Supervisors met in a workshop session to begin 2010 budget talks with a review of capital projects.  There will be more budget meetings and all are open to the public.  On October 13 (Public Works, Parks, Sewer, & Recreation) Supervisors will meet with department heads to review budget submissions.  They will do the same on October 14 with the Police, Fire, Codes, & Administration department heads.  Both sessions begin at 5 PM.  If needed, there will be an additional session on October 15 at 6:30 PM.

During the regular meeting:  (1) A "volunteer service award" was given to Harry and Susan Bennett for their "hard and wonderful work" to make Forks Community Days a success; (2) CMX stunned the Board with its estimated cost of the amphitheater - over $550,000.  It will be on hold until pared down; And, (3) Supervisors authorized the filing of two more lawsuits against Strausser Enterprises. 

Please read Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) and Sarah Wojcik (Express Times) for more details of the lawsuits.  And, for more on the amphitheater, see this online article by Sarah Wojcik (Express Times.)

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Donald Wheeler of Bonnie Circle addressed the Board and asked that it consider enacting an ordinance similar to the new one in Emmaus to limit the number of cats and dogs that can be kept at any residence.  He thought that three, the number set by Emmaus to be too low.  Mr. Wheeler said that the goals of the ordinance are to promote public health and welfare as well as discourage people from having a large number of pets - that become a nuisance to their neighbors.

Howell asked how Emmaus enforces the new ordinance and in particular how does it monitor the number of households?  He said that Forks has one public works employee who deals with dogs only. 

Chuss said it was a great idea and thought it would help with the feral cat problem in Forks.  Howell said that the definition of domestic animals does not deal with feral animals.  Northampton County has a catch and release program to deal with feral cats. 

Schnaedter noted that townships, unlike cities and boroughs, have a "diverse residency with large parcels of land" and it would be difficult to regulate them.

Mr. Wheeler said that the Emmaus ordinance deals only with dogs and cats and not with exotic animals.  He gave a copy of the Emmaus ordinance to Township Manager Schnaedter.

See this Morning Call article on Macungie's new three pet limit ordinance for reference.

Supervisors' Remarks: 

  • Supervisor Nicholas - remarked that it was nice to see Susan and Harry Bennett in the audience because she wanted to thank them for Forks Days.  She also expressed thanks to Mark Roberts (DPW Director), to Gary Sandt and all the public works people, Troop 29, and the Forks Athletic Association (for the fireworks). 
    • At this point, the Board choose to advance the first item in Unfinished Business to Supervisors' Remarks for the purpose of honoring Susan and Harry Bennett for their tireless work in organizing Forks Community Days for the past several years.  The Bennetts are long time Forks residents of Lockwood Congress.  
    • Howell asked the Bennetts to come forward and on behalf of the Board, he and Nicholas presented them with an inscribed "volunteer service award to Harry and Susan Bennett in grateful appreciation of your hard work and dedication in keeping Forks Township Days alive."  Applause.  Susan Bennett thanked the Board and said that it's not just us, it's the community... the Township... the staff... six key people... beautiful weather... the vendors... and the people who attended.  Harry Bennett, after shaking hands with everyone on the podium, said that he wants to do it again next year.

Treasurer's Report - Miller 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 $8,147,854. 

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 October 20th at 8 AM in the municipal building.  Topics to be discussed include public safety matters of the community and possibly Mr. Wheeler's suggested pet ordinance. 
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - announced that the next committee meeting is scheduled for October 13 at 7:30 AM.  He said that the committee had the initial kick-off meeting for the DPW garage with Kimmel & Bogrette.  Kimmel, along with Roberts and Schnaedter, visited the site at Richmond/Newlins Roads. 
    • Howell asked Solicitor Kline to explain why the Braden Park site is not appropriate. 
    • Kline said that when Forks got the land from Lafayette College, it was intended for recreation purposes and was deed restricted as such.  Furthermore, it cannot be sold or swapped without Lafayette having the first option to buy it back at the original price paid. 
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Nicholas - said that because October 12 is a holiday, the next committee meeting will be on November 9 at 6 PM.  The committee will review the five year recreation plan.  Also, Nicholas reported that the Community Park basketball and tennis courts are being worked on now.  Roberts said that the Penn's Ridge court has signage in place and is ready to "open" tomorrow morning.  Signs prohibit skateboarding and the court will be open while the Community Park court is out of service.  Howell complemented Roberts over the installation of the outdoor fitness stations along the Community Park recreation path.  He said that every time he drives by, he sees at least one "55 and older person" using them. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee will meet on October 12 at 5 PM.  (If you plan to attend, check with the office that this is a valid time and date as the 12th is Columbus Day and the office is closed.)
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next committee meeting is for the budget workshop on October 14 at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that the Supervisors have a report/graph in their packets from Gary Pulcini (Township financial consultant) showing the current bond market as the best in 20 years.  Schnaedter also said that the initial meeting of the Business and Commerce Association of Forks Township (board of directors) is set for October 16.  Additionally, URDC's Charlie Schmehl will have the Comprehensive Plan re-edit completed by Wednesday of next week.  Mr. Schmehl is confident that the Board will be pleased with it. 

Engineer's Report - Hay - said that Supervisors have a written report in their packets.  The basketball court rehab is underway as is the five acre field grading.  The contractor thinks he may have it done tomorrow.  The sewer rehab continues.  The plans for the Glover/Padula road realignment have been submitted.  Glover will move towards Modern Concrete and have a gentle "s" curve and Padula will intersect at a tee.  Also, Winchester Drive is being repaired by Strausser Enterprises.   

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that Henningsen Cold Storage wants to move ahead this building season with moving some of the stockpiled earth and fill onto their lot.  The signed agreements and the escrow, although agreed to, have yet to be received from Henningsen.  As soon as they are received a pre-construction meeting is could be as early as next week.  Depending on the economic conditions, construction could start in 2010 on phase one, the first 100,000 square feet.  That will be over two acres under roof.  The completed project will have approximately nine acres under roof.

Nicholas asked the status of Weis Market and Kline said that it has been "hurry up and wait."  He heard that they have received all of the needed rights of way for earth work and is now working with PennDOT for the HOP (highway occupancy permit).  Hay said that he got a copy of the application in today's mail.

Kline also reported on the Renigar minor subdivision in the 100 year flood plain.  He said that the plan was approved but Mr. Renigar has to grant a storm water easement where the water flows.  He does not like the fact that he cannot build something in the flood plain.  Mr. Renigar has all the information he needs to proceed if he chooses to do so. 


Community Day Update - (Harry & Susan Bennett) - moved to Supervisors' Comments - see above.

CMX Presentation – Proposed Amphitheater (Bonnie Nicholas, Supervisor) - Tim Edinger of CMX addressed the Board with the concept plan, schedule, and cost estimates for the proposed amphitheater.  Supervisors also had copies of the draft minutes from the last Planning Commission (PC) workshop in which the project was discussed and suggestions were made.

The estimate numbers were given in parts totaling $550,000.  The amphitheater estimate is $300,000.  The impervious coverage and architectural brickwork total $90,000.  The site preparation estimate was $200,000 plus a 10% contingency.  Included are pedestrian pathways, impervious coverage, grass pavers, and architectural brickwork.

Mr. Edinger said that there could be cost savings if asphalt is used instead and if the decorative stonework is eliminated.  He said that he thought it would be May 2010 before the site could be used - providing that no extra regulatory applications and permits are needed.  If they are needed, they would push the work back.

Howell said that he never thought there would be a $209,000 expense for site preparation.  Nicholas agreed.  Howell asked what the cost would be to put in the amphitheater and the service road only?  Mr. Edinger said that there would be a considerable price reduction with asphalt paving.

Howell next suggested that the BoS take their comments and the PC comments and "sweat out what we really want."  He said it should be discussed at the Board or committee level.

Nicholas said that she thought that the whole site was not going to be disturbed.

Chuss said that this is "sticker shock" to him and that this is to come out of the recreation fund of $1.7 million.  He said that the BoS has to be careful that there is enough for other projects.  He added that he is supportive of an amphitheater but it must be a "fiscally sound purchase."

James Wideman (candidate for Supervisor) asked what the proposed number is and was told $349,000 - for the pavilion and $209 for site preparation. 

Vito Tamborrino (Planning Commission) said that it is important that things be done right and that the BoS should define what this will be used for and be certain that it is designed so that a person in a wheel chair can get to it.

David Billings (candidate for Supervisor) asked if the cost included the design charges.  Mr. Edinger said that it does not. 

The Board will refine what it wants and will have Schnaedter contact CMX when the reduced concept is known.


Business and Commerce Association of Forks Township By-Laws (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Howell explained that there is a board meeting coming up later this month and one of things that must be done as a business item is the approval of the by-laws.  All members must approve them.  Schnaedter said that the origin of the group was almost two years ago at a Township sponsored breakfast.  The new group will be a local operation with its own, unique character but will also be part of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.  The vote was 4:0 to approve the by-laws.

Tatamy Bridge on Uhler Road - letter of Support (Vito Tamborrino, Planning Commission) - Tamborrino reviewed the importance of the Tatamy Bridge on Uhler Road (Forks Township) that continues through Tatamy as Main Street - to the proposed new Route #33 interchange.  Tamborrino said that he attended the second meeting of the interchange proposal in Palmer Township.  He said that there have been traffic counts done and that there will be five traffic lights installed.

Even though PennDOT acknowledges the deplorable condition of the bridge and agrees that it will  be replaced, the Commission is concerned that the bridge work will be delayed to a time at or after the interchange work begins or is completed. The Planning Commission requests that the Supervisors join with neighboring communities to write a letter to PennDOT expressing the wish that the bridge replacement work begin as soon as possible without regard to the start of the interchange.  The Board voted 4-0 to authorize a separate letter - from Forks only.  However, it will be shared with neighboring communities. 

Motion to support Bushkill Stream Conservancy (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter received a request from the Conservancy requesting an annual donation of $250.00 from the Township.  A similar request is being made to all communities along Bushkill Creek's banks.

Nicholas thought that the Conservancy should tell the Township more about its plans since if it hadn't been for an Eagle Scout wanting to do a project near the dam, the Township would not know that the Conservancy plans to "blow the dam."

The Supervisors agreed that the Conservancy’s work to preserve and improve the creek’s natural environment has a positive impact on the quality of life in Forks.  The Board voted 4–0 to grant a current donation of $250 Dollars from 2009 General Funds.  The Board did not consider the donation as an annual donation.

Riverview Estates – PRD – Escrow Account and Phases V & VI (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Kline reviewed the last 10 years of Strausser Enterprises/Riverview Estates history.  He said it was appropriate to recognize that the original PRD (planned residential development) was submitted in 1999.  At the time, the phasing of the plan was discussed, tentative approvals were given, and the developer was in agreement and indicated he would be able to live with the terms and conditions. 

Over the following 10 years there have been repeated problems with the developer who has failed to comply with the rules applicable to all developers and that are required by State law.  The PA DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has only cited one developer in Forks in the past 25 years and that was Strausser Enterprises - for frequent and egregious violations of the storm water and erosion control regulations. 

Kline said that the Township and staff have tried to work with Strausser Enterprises and despite Mr. Strausser's protestations to the contrary, the Township has been lenient and patient.  He said that after 10 years, it is clear to him that the developer "has no interest in cooperating with the Township and adhering to the rules."

Kline gave two examples:

  1. Escrow accounts are required for phases that are not completed.  The funds guarantee that municipal improvements will be completed.  The improvement agreements were signed by Strausser for phases 2, 2c, 3, and 4.  Each escrow account now has a zero balance.  Phase 2 has been active since 2003 and phase 2c is the clubhouse.  There was no response to last month's letter despite the fact that there were numerous communications with the developer's staff.
  2. Final plans have not been submitted for phase 5 and 6.  The developer was given six years to file final plans for all phases of the PRD.  The result of not filing within the six years is that the developer loses the rights to develop those phases.  Strausser Enterprises has missed the filing deadline by 3-1/2 years.  Kline said that he reminded the developer two years ago and drafted a proposal to grant a reprieve if certain requirements were met - a turning lane on Route 611 and the stabilizing of the Frost Hollow swale.  The developer has refused to sign the agreement and there has been no activity on either request.  Again, the letter sent on September 18th has gone unanswered.

Kline said that he believes the developer has left the Township with no choice except to initiate legal action.  He recommended to the Board that two lawsuits be filed - one to restore the escrow balances and the second for a declaratory judgment action in which the courts will recognize the fact that phases 5 and 6 are no longer valid.

Howell noted that the Board has spent a great deal of time in executive session discussions of litigation matters. 

The first motion, to authorized Kline to file a lawsuit for money damages to restore the escrow account balances to $240,000 passed with a 4:0 vote.

The second motion, to authorize a second lawsuit to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas for a declaratory judgment, that is a declaration that the Township is correct and that phases 5 and 6 are no longer valid, also passed with a 4:0 vote.

Executive Session - There was no Executive Session.  The meeting was adjourned

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it true that Mr. Strausser has, or will be amending his defamation lawsuit against Forks Township to include The Forks Action Committee?