Saturday, January 31, 2009

Candidates - come out, come out, wherever you are!

Candidates for local municipal offices are beginning to declare their intentions to run in the 2009 Primary.  So far in Forks Township, only David Billings (R) has made a formal announcement of his intention to run for Supervisor.  On January 30th The Morning Call's Christopher Baxter broke the story on the Two Rivers Daily blog.  The incumbents have yet to announce.

Time is getting short for making up your mind to run.  The required paperwork will be available at the Northampton County Elections Office the week of February 9th.  Candidates may begin collecting signatures on February 17th and completed petitions must be turned in by March 10th.  The Municipal Primary will be held on May 19th.  Check the 2009 PA election calendar for even more deadlines/dates.

Wondering which Forks positions are up for election?  On November 3rd voters will decide on two Supervisors, one Real Estate Tax Collector, and one Elected Auditor. 

If you are on the fence about whether or not to run in 2009, it is definitely time to commit.  One of the newly elected Forks individuals could be you.   And, heck, there is no filing fee for the Forks slots!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

KMRD - Oral arguments - Procedural Challenge - Coming Feb. 3rd

The Northampton County Court of Common Pleas has scheduled the oral arguments in the KMRD Procedural Challenge (large file) for 9:00 AM, February 3rd.

This is the challenge that the Forks Zoning Hearing Board rejected on March 24, 2008. KMRD alleged that Forks Zoning Ordinances back to 1983 were enacted with flawed procedures and should therefore be declared invalid. It is no secret that KMRD would prefer to develop the land they own and/or have under contract using 1983 rules.

If you have time on Tuesday, February 3rd, you may want to watch the proceedings in the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas for yourself.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 1/15/09

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Forks Supervisors held one of their shorter meetings - 20 minutes for the main meeting, one hour for the Executive Session, and two minutes to vote on the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) solicitor's 2009 rate of pay. 

Public Comments (non-agenda) - none

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Nicholas welcomed Troop 29.  She said that they were there to work on a "citizenship in the community" badge.

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 $8,402,099.  (Note:  We inquired of Supervisor Howell the day after the meeting about the $1,020,000 debt increase from the previously reported $7,382,099.  He explained that the loan for the new public works equipment was booked at year end.)

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 held its unofficial first meeting last week.  Basically it was a get together to say "hello" and to comment on the roles each will have going forward.  The committee's 2009 theme is to determine what is and is not working.  The next meeting will be on the third Tuesday, January 20th, at 8 AM.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that although he was unable to attend, a meeting was held on Tuesday, January 13th.  Chuss said that he discussed what to cover with Township Manager Schnaedter.  There is a need for storage of the new roadside mover and new leaf vacuum.  The committee is exploring two possible locations.  Also, an insurance investigator performed an inspection of the public works site and deemed that the mechanic's pit is hazardous.  Purchase of a hydraulic lift will be explored with the thought of locating it in the mechanic's work area in the sewer department building.  At the next meeting, the committee will tour the public works facilities in order to update the status of buildings and equipment.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met on January 12th at 6:00 PM in the Municipal Building.  Supervisor Nicholas is also on the committee.  Representatives of both the Athletic Association and the Recreation Board attended.  In addition to reviewing the past year with Miller, the committee reviewed current projects, and talked about future meetings, the next of which will be on February 9th.  Egolf said that the time change for the meeting accounted for the good turnout.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee met this week.  They discussed ideas for articles for the Forks Quarterly, such as the fire tower, the fire department open house, the Comp Plan, and the budget.  The committee plans a review of the Township website.   Schnaedter added that because of the budget cuts, the committee is considering reducing the Quarterly to two issues per year.  The move would save approximately $4,500 - $5,000.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee met on Wednesday and agreed that the first topic of every meeting will be a review of the monthly financial reports (that the Supervisors receive in their packets).  Other areas to be covered include the creation of a three or five year plan for the finance department, a review of the trash contract, an update of the Community Center swipe cards, document archives (currently underway), and staff reviews.  The main EIT (earned income tax) form will soon be online for download.  A safety training program for employees is being explored.  The handrail for the Municipal Building walkway is on order.   Another goal is to try to "go paperless" with the Supervisors packets.  Nicholas said that Miller reported that the tennis and basketball courts are out for bids and prices are being checked for the bathroom for Braden Park.

Howell, in reference to the tennis and basketball courts, said that Linda Hill (she spearheaded the successful PTA effort to get new playground equipment for the Forks Elementary School) called him with questions about the Community Park.  She told him that the elementary school is planning to repair some play surfaces and that there is a contractor in Forks who does resurfacing.  He represents Nova Sports USA out of MA.  Ms. Hill is looking into a discounted installation at the school and will share the cost information she gets with the Township.  Howell said that he asked her to send an email to Egolf, Miller, and Nicholas. 

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that the strategic goal setting session for the BoS and staff is set for Saturday, January 24th.  It will last almost a full day.  He also reported that there is a meeting tomorrow morning at PennDOT with "all the principal parties" and that PennDOT hopes to resolve the Meco/Sullivan traffic light issue.  As to grants, Forks is still in the running according to a phone call Schnaedter received from Congressman Dent's office.  They will keep him apprised of the progress.

Engineer's Report - Hay - excused absence.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.


Public Safety Committee - meeting day change (David Howell, Chairman) - a motion was made to set the meetings for the third Tuesday of the month at 8:00 AM in the Municipal Building.  It passed 5:0.

The Center for Animal Health & Welfare – Animal Services Agreement (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that he received the 2009 proposed contract and that it has the same language as last year's including that private citizens (who don't even have to be Forks residents) can bring in animals.  The cost is the same per animal as last year - $50 each.  He requested approval of the contract with the elimination of the "private citizen" clause - as was done last year by strike-out.  Egolf made the motion, Miller seconded, and it was approved with a 5:0 vote.


Establish compensation for Zoning Solicitor - Discussion took place in executive session because compensation was involved.  A vote was taken after the session - see below.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss a real estate matter, a personnel matter, and litigation.  The discussion of the 2009 compensation rate for ZHB solicitor Michael Shay was considered a personnel matter.  According to Kline, no action was taken during the session.  After it, however, Egolf made a motion, seconded by Nicholas, to set the rate of pay for attorney Michael Shay at $120/hour.  It was approved unanimously and the meeting was adjourned.

Please read Tony Nauroth (Express Times) for more on the ZHB solicitor's increase. 

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, January 11, 2009

BoS Re-Org & Regular Meeting Notes - 1/5/2009


Every second class township is required to meet on the first Monday of the new year (unless if falls on the 1st that is) to re-organize and to elect a chairman, a vice chairman, and a secretary/treasurer.  This year the Board, did just that, it elected officers and voted on positions and appointments - although some were not without lengthy discussions and not all issues were resolved.  Supervisor Don Miller was absent (due to a death in his family.)   Tony Nauroth (Express Times) and Tom De Martini (Morning Call) were there. 

For 2009:

  • Chairman - David Howell (3:1 with Chuss casting the dissenting vote)
  • Vice Chairman - Bonnie Nicholas (4:0)
  • Secretary/Treasurer - Bob Egolf (4:0)

PNC Bank and PLGIT were voted in as depositories for Forks Township. Signatures of either two Supervisors or one Supervisor and the Township Manager are required for withdrawals from accounts including from the general fund, the utility fund, the escrow account, the tax account, etc.

  • Township Manager - Rick Schnaedter
  • Assistant Secretary and Assistant Treasurer of the General Fund - NONE
  • Township Solicitor - Karl Kline ($145/hr - up from $140 last year)
  • Alternate Township Solicitor - Steve Goudsouzian ($145/hr - up from $140 last year)
  • Solicitor for Zoning Hearing Board - Michael Shay
    • The first motion (by Chuss) was to appoint Michael Shay at $145/hr and it was withdrawn after discussion and replaced with two motions, one to appoint, and one for the $145 rate.  Nicholas said that the increase ($45/hr over last year's rate of $100/hr) is "over and above" what anyone else in the Township is getting.  Egolf concurred and for the same reason.
    • Chuss said that he thought that Michael Shay did an outstanding job in the "KMRD defense" and that "what the going rate is is what going rate is."  He added that if someone is doing less than expected the rate should be lowered and if more than expected, he should be paid a higher rate.  He said that Michael Shay is worthy of the going rate of $145/hr.
    • Nicholas agreed that Michael Shay does an excellent job and said that she worked with him on the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB).  She thought that a 45% increase in a year where the Township has a tax increase cannot be justified. 
    • Egolf said that his aversion to the increase has nothing to do with attorney Shay's professional service for the ZHB but instead is because of the 2009 tax increase and because every department has been asked to hold the line.  Egolf said that he, too, worked with Shay on the ZHB and has the highest regard for him and for his ability.
    • Howell said that Shay's value to the Township is higher than $100/hr.  He added that attorney Shay wrote to the Board and asked for a pay raise.  Howell added that he does not recall Shay asking for any raise at all over the last five years.
    • Egolf said that although Shay did not name a figure, he did ask to be paid commensurate with the Township Solicitor's rate.  Egolf suggested that the Board have a discussion with him and ask exactly what he has in mind.
    • The motion to pay Michael Shay $145/hr resulted in a 2:2 tie (Chuss and Howell - aye, Nicholas and Egolf - nay) and therefore the motion did not carry.  No rate was set.
  • Engineering Firm - Keystone Consulting Engineers (at fee schedule provided - approximately a 4% increase across the board)
  • Township Engineer - Fred Hay (at $84/hr - up from $80 last year)
    • After the vote to approve passed, Egolf commented that it is important that the Board receive rate change requests in a timely manner.  The fax date on the Keystone rate advisory is 12/30/08.  The budget schedule was advertised, cuts were made, and taxes were raised.  Egolf thought that getting the request for increased rates on 12/30/08 is unprofessional. 
    • Hay replied that it was done the way it has always been done. 
    • Kline asked what date Egolf would like to see professionals' rates and Egolf asked (Finance Manager) Farley what date he begins the budget process.  Farley said that the budget for professional services is not tied to hourly rates but instead a cap is used.  If the cap is exceeded, the additional expense must be justified. 
    • Egolf said that the rates should be submitted at the same time as everything else being considered in the budget.  He said that if he were a Forks department head, he would feel "a little bit down" if he submitted his budget on time and followed all the rules and regulations and someone "waltzes in at the eleventh hour and gets an increase because they provide professional services."  He asked that rates be submitted in the future by November 1st.  Again, he said that this, as in the case of Michael Shay, has nothing to do with quality of work.  Egolf said that the Township gets the highest quality of work and professionalism from Keystone and from Mr. Hay. 
    • Nicholas said that the issue of getting rates sooner is on her list of things for the Finance Committee to consider.  The committee will be discussing it and also when to send letters to all professionals working for the Township to advise of their new rates. 
  • Auditing Firm - France, Anderson, Basile & Company, P.C.
  • Earned Income and Local Services Tax Collector - Mary Ann Kessler
  • Assistant Collector - Anne Bennett-Morse
  • Business Privilege Tax Collector - Sandi Rossi

The meeting schedules for the Standing Committees (of the BoS) were established as follows:

  • Public Safety - first Tuesday (of the month) - 8:00 AM - it was since changed to the THIRD Tuesday at 8:00 AM per the legal notice. - Howell is chairman
  • Finance & Administration - second Wednesday - 5:00 PM - Nicholas is chairman
  • Community Relations - second Monday - 5:00 PM - Miller is chairman
  • Parks & Recreation - second Monday - 6:00 PM - Egolf is chairman
  • Public Works - second Tuesday - 7:30 AM - Chuss is chairman

All meetings will be held at the Municipal Building.

The 2009 meeting schedules for the Board and the Planning Commission were set. The Board of Supervisors will meet on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7:30 PM with a possible third meeting (if necessary) on the fourth Thursday. Thirty or 60 minute workshops may be scheduled before or immediately after the regular meetings.

The Planning Commission will meet on the second Thursday at 7:00 PM and the workshop sessions, which will be treated in the same manner as regular meetings, are set for the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM.

The Zoning Hearing Board will meet as needed on the second and third Mondays at 7:30 PM.  (Zoning Hearing notices are advertised on an individual basis.)

PEMA’s Emergency Operations Plan was re-adopted.  It is unchanged from last year.

More appointments:

  • Emergency Management Coordinator - Richard Bassett
  • Assistant Emergency Management Coordinators - Tim Weis & Greg Dorney

The Board authorized payment of routine bills that may have penalties or interest if they are not paid before the next BoS meeting.

The Municipal Building's daily hours (open the public) were set at 7:30 AM - 4:30 PM Monday through Friday. Office employees’ hours range between 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM.  Hours for the Director of Public Works and for Public Works employees can vary from the standard hours (due to inclement weather, etc.)

Yet More Appointments:

  • Fire Chief - Bryan Weis
  • Deputy Fire Chief - Charles Chapman
  • Zoning Enforcement Officer, Building Code Official - Tim Weis
  • Flood Plain Permit Officer - Christopher Noll (and alternate Fred Hay) - Keystone Consulting Engineers
  • Assistant Zoning Officers - Matt Miller & Loretta Fuehrer 
  • Sewer Enforcement Officer - Chris Noll, primary with Fred Hay & Lisa Kern as alternates, Keystone Consulting Engineers
  • Electrical Inspectors - Keystone Electrical Inspectors

The wages & benefits packages of both the uniformed (police) and non-uniformed employees were re-affirmed.

The following appointments were made - all votes were 4:0:

  • Vacancy Board - Henning Holmgaard - one year term - (incumbent and only applicant - no interview)
  • Zoning Hearing Board - Louis Moyer - 5 year term - (incumbent and only applicant - no interview)
  • Planning Commission - Larry Kirsten - 4 year term - (only applicant and familiar to all Supervisors because of frequent meeting attendance - no interview)
  • Recreation Board - Carl Scerbo - 5 year term - (incumbent - only applicant with an on-time application submission - no interview)
    • Discussion ensued over this appointment because an additional application was received from Ty Corallo.  It was dated January 1st, after the December 29 advertised deadline.  According to Schnaedter, "it was dropped at the counter."
    • Chuss said that he knows both applicants and both are "really good individuals."  He would like the opportunity to review Mr. Corallo's application, although Carl Scerbo did meet the deadline and it "would be a legitimate concern."  Chuss suggested that the Board consider asking Mr. Scerbo if he had any objection to the Board reviewing both applications and making a decision at a later date.  If Mr. Scerbo has an issue with that, though, Chuss thought that the Board should support his concern and appoint him. 
    • Nicholas said that she was concerned that he (Corallo) did not meet the deadline but if Scerbo has no objection, the Supervisors could interview both candidates before the next BoS meeting.
    • Chuss made a motion to table this appointment and to have Schnaedter contact Mr. Scerbo and see if he has any issue with interviewing the other candidate (since Corallo's application was late) and depending upon Mr. Scerbo's response, a decision can be made. 
    • Nicholas seconded for discussion and asked if the interviews would be at a workshop before the next BoS meeting - to avoid further delay. 
    • Egolf said that he was very uncomfortable with this (motion) because the opening was advertised, money was paid for the ad, and a deadline was specified.  He said, "It would be nice to get additional people involved in the Recreation Board... but the plane took off."  He wondered, too, about any legal ramifications.  Kline noted that whatever process is used, it must be fair to everybody.  If the Board extends the deadline for Mr. Corallo, others may say that they would have submitted under the extended deadline.  Kline said that to be fair to all, either the 29th was the deadline and no additional applications should be accepted or the Board can re-advertise with an extended deadline so that everyone has an equal opportunity to apply.
    • Howell said that this motion puts the burden on Mr. Scerbo. 
    • The vote on the motion was 0:4.
    • Another motion was made to appoint Carl Scerbo to the five year term and it passed 4:0.

Lastly, these appointments were made:

  • Board of Supervisors' Voting Representative at PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) Annual Convention - Rick Schnaedter
  • Principal to attend TRCOGS (Two Rivers Council of Governments) quarterly meetings - David Howell
  • Alternate to attend TRCOGS - Bob Egolf




Public Comments (non-agenda) - none

Supervisors Comments

  • Chairman Howell asked if the Board is getting new calendars   Schnaedter said, "Yes."
  • Sandy Hanks (audience) asked about the status of the Meco/Sullivan traffic light and was told by Schnaedter that he was in contact with "Melissa" from PennDOT who has volunteered to host a meeting at PennDOT with the principal parties involved.  She sent an email with dates and Mr. Leiser and Schnaedter have responded.  Hay will contact her tomorrow.  They hope to have the meeting next week to resolve the issue.  

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 $7,382,099.

Standing Committee Reports:

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell said that the first meeting (although not yet advertised) will be tomorrow to talk about the year.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - no report
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - no report
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - absent
  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - announced that the first meeting will be on Wednesday, January 14th at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that the winter edition of the Forks Quarterly was out in time and should have been received by residents.  He also said that he is waiting to hear from Congressman Dent's office regarding the status of 2009 grant appropriations.

Engineer's Report - Hay - No report.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that "as expected" KMRD filed an appeal to the ZHB decision in the substantive challenge to the 2006 Zoning Ordinance.  The ZHB, "after many, many hearings," rejected all of KMRD's challenges.  The 31 page appeal was received last week and assigns about 50 different errors in conclusions of law.  Kline said that none of it is a surprise and that all of the issues were issues KMRD raised during the hearings. 

Kline said that he sent a copy of the appeal to the Supervisors.  There are 150 pages of exhibits (not included in the copy to the Supervisors but available to them if they want them.)  He affirmed the Township's intent to vigorously defend its position that the 2006 Zoning Ordinance is valid and should be upheld.

Howell asked how the appeal process works.  Kline said that basically, the record is closed and the court will now have the "opportunity and pleasure to read the transcripts of all the hearings" from 2006-2008 and, if the court believes that there should be more testimony, it can remand to the ZHB for more hearings.  He added that attorney Shay bent over backwards to let KMRD present all the testimony it wanted to present.

KMRD has filed its appeal and now the Township will file its answer to the appeal disputing the issues raised by KMRD.  Then both KMRD and the Township will submit briefs.  Next there is opportunity for oral argument before the judge.  It will be at least a month from now and Kline will notify the BoS when the anticipated date is to be. 


Conditional Use decision – The Brake Shops of Lehigh Valley, Inc. (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline said that this is the written decision of the Board's unanimous conditional use approval.  It was approved and accepted for signature in a 4:0 vote.

Ordinance # 311 – EAJSA Regulations (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that the EAJSA (Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority) under the recommendation of the EPA and DEP, adopted regulations regarding industrial pre-treatment and for streamlining the entire process.  All member municipalities are required to ratify the EAJSA resolution either by ordinance or resolution.  Because the Township has approved EAJSA actions  by ordinance in the past, an ordinance was needed for this.  It has been properly advertised.  The vote to ratify was 4:0.


Lafayette College Contract - Goals, Roles, and Expectations Program (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that he received the contract for the "Goals, Roles, and Expectations Program" from Lafayette College.  The contract contains the scope of the services and a provision that the Township will provide accurate information in discussion of goals as well as proof of liability insurance (from both the Township and Lafayette).  The seminar is scheduled for Saturday, January 24th at a cost of $65/hr with a not to exceed amount of $1,000.  Nicholas asked about the start time and Schnaedter said that it is up to the Board but it is recommended that it have an early start and end early afternoon.  Kline reviewed the contract and said that everything was fine.  The motion to sign was approved 4:0.

Executive Session - was held to discuss pending litigation and a real estate matter.  No action was taken during the session.  After it though, a 4:0 vote was made to approve authorizing the tentative settlement reached by the Township's insurer in the case of accident victim James Stitt against the Township and against police officer, Jeremy McClymont (who resigned in December 2007).  Mr. Stitt sued both the police officer and Forks Township and in order to proceed with the settlement, the insurer needs the authorization of the Board of Supervisors.  The terms of the settlement are not yet known.

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.

Elected Auditors - Held the line on increases!

On January 6, 2009, after absolutely NO discussion before the public, the Forks Elected Auditors voted to hold the line and keep the 2008 salary levels for both Supervisors who work for the Township.

The meeting began 25 minutes late and lasted all of 3-1/2 minutes.  Yes, the auditors were indeed there on time - even a little early - for the scheduled 7:00 PM start.  First though, they met behind closed doors with Township Solicitor, Karl Kline, and then... for approximately 15 minutes they met by themselves. 

When they emerged from their private session, they approved minutes from the January 2008 meeting, elected Elizabeth Casapulla as 2009 chairman, and Sandra Wideman as 2009 secretary. 

The auditors had two salary issues before them, that of Secretary/Treasurer of the Board of Supervisors, Bob Egolf, and that of Community Center Manager, Don Miller.  In both instances, the votes were 2:1 in favor of maintaining the 2008 salary levels.  In other words, NO RAISES.  The nay votes were cast by auditor Jim Craig.

For 2009 the Secretary/Treasurer will earn $2,271 and the Community Center Manager will earn $43,000. 

There was no public discussion by the auditors, no input from the audience, and after 3-1/2 minutes, the meeting was adjourned.  Yes, 3-1/2 minutes!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 - KMRD filed its appeal!

No one thought it would be over after the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) ruled in favor of Forks Township in the KMRD/Kings Mill substantive challenge to Forks Township's Zoning Ordinance.  Not really.  And, true to his word, KMRD's legal council (and a principal in KMRD), attorney John VanLuvanee, has filed an appeal of the ZHB decision with the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.

Read Riley Yates' January 2nd account in the Morning Call for all the details.  And, remember, "It ain't over till it's over." (Yogi Berra)

2009 begins with meetings

The new year is starting.  On Monday, January 5th, the Forks Board of Supervisors will meet at 7:00 PM for their annual re-organization meeting.  This is when annual decisions take place including: setting the year's meeting schedules; electing BoS officers; filling positions; and appointing members to boards and commissions.  And, at 7:30 PM the Supervisors will hold their first business meeting of 2009

On Tuesday, January 6th at 7:00 PM, the elected auditors will hold their first, and normally, their only meeting of 2009.  The elected auditors meet to set the salary rates for Supervisors who are also Township employees.  That list has dwindled to two, Don Miller (Community Center Director) and the Secretary/Treasurer (to be elected on Monday night). 

Then on Thursday, January 8th at 7:00 PM, the Planning Commission will hold its re-organization meeting.  Like the Board of Supervisors, the PC will set its schedule and elect its officers, and if warranted, conduct its first regular meeting of the new year.

If you'd like to see this year from its beginning, plan to attend!