Sunday, April 26, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 4/16/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Public Comments (non-agenda)  -

Fernando Cabrera of Cara Court, who appeared at the 4/2/09 BoS meeting to request that the Township create an ordinance regarding abandoned vehicles (and vehicles in disrepair) on private property, said that he brought some examples of PA regulations (for the Board) that he thought might be used verbatim.  He said that he looked ordinances in Northampton and Bucks Counties, among others.  Mr. Cabrera also asked the Board about his request at the last meeting for east/west stop signs on Meco Road at the Thomas/Jamie intersection.  Howell said that it, as well as two other stop sign requests, will be discussed at the next Public Safety Committee meeting (April 21st at 8 AM).

Supervisor Comments

  • Supervisor Howell - said that the Township has been contacted by Megan McBride of the Easton Main Street Initiative and Manager of the Easton Farmers' Market to ask if Forks is interested in participating in the Farmers' Market Trolley.  It will be circulating transportation for Forks residents who are interested in going to the Easton Farmers' Market during the season (all summer and into the fall) and is being underwritten by a grant.  Easton Coach Company is providing the trolley.  Ms. McBride has asked to use the Municipal parking lot as a staging area and has already introduced the program to most of the homeowners' associations.  Howell said that there has been overwhelming interest at the over 55 communities.  It will mean free transportation downtown and will run every half hour or so.  Township Manager Schnaedter said that he spoke with Ms. McBride late this afternoon and she intends to begin the trolley program on June 6th - in time for the Strawberry Festival.  Supervisor Nicholas asked that an announcement be put on the Township website when the details are ready.

(Note-update:  An Express Times April 28, 2009 article reports that the trolley rides will cost $1 round trip.)

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 $8,346,476. 

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's next meeting will be on the third Tuesday (April 21st) at 8 AM.  He said that he has spoken with Barry Albertson of Suburban EMS regarding the recent Express Times article about the Faith Lutheran Church purchase of the former Forks EMS building.  All of the Forks EMS outstanding balances to the Township have been paid.  Negotiations are pending regarding Suburban's rental of the building (from the church).  Howell said that the location has always been an EMS location and is centrally located to serve the Township.  The lease will be for one year and will be automatically renewable.  Faith Lutheran has future plans for the building and does not want to be tied down in excess of a year nor does Suburban as it wants to find a permanent location of its own in the Township.  Mr. Albertson will attend the Public Safety meeting.
    • Police Chief Dorney announced that the department received (today) six new audio/video units for the police cars.  Two have already been installed.  Their value totals $48,000 and they were provided from a Federal grant - and the "hard work of Congressman Dent's office."  Both Nicholas and Howell congratulated Chief Dorney.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee met on Tuesday and "covered a lot of ground."  There are four 5-year plans in development - parks/recreation, facilities, sewer, and road maintenance.  The committee also discussed:
    • The "Dewalt upgrade" (the five acre tract behind the Community Center).  It was discussed (by the committee) because of a comment to the previously distributed versions of the plans. 
    • The five year plan presentations will be done by DPW Director Mark Roberts at a 6:30 workshop before the May 21st BoS meeting.  It will take 45 minutes.  The plans should be in the hands of the Supervisors by their next meeting.  
    • The proposed public works building was discussed as well.  Roberts said that currently the Township is using five different locations across the Township for vehicle storage.  The current garage on Frost Hollow has environmental, storage, and safety issues.  Roberts said that at his old job (in New Britain Township), there is now a new garage with 16 bays.  "It is a very good working facility."  Roberts was able to obtain copies of those plans.  Chuss added that the committee will further discuss financing for the public works garage at its May meeting (May 12 at 7:30 AM).  Schnaedter said that the committee has looked at two other public works facilities and has taken the "positives" from them, made modifications and now has something they feel is feasible and "certainly financially reasonable."
    • Permissions are needed for the Lieb Road connection.  Nicholas said that she thought there were major drainage issues there.  Roberts noted that that is what they are addressing and that an easement will be needed to Bushkill Drive.
    • The Sullivan/Newlins culvert "doesn't look like it will happen this year."  A design as well as easements from Lafayette College are needed.
    • The curbing on Meadow Lane (ref. BoS Meeting note - 3/19/09) will be expensive to replace, is the responsibility of the landowner, and at this time is still being investigated.

Jim Wideman (resident and write-in candidate for Supervisor) asked if the five year plans will be on the Township website for the public to see.  Chuss said he didn't know but that the plans are available for public review.  Howell said that the Community Relations Committee is responsible for the website and they will discuss it.  The website upgrade has just started.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that at the Monday meeting, every outdoor sport commissioner appeared "to talk about our need for fields."  He said that the Township is experiencing "gratification with our kids" and that the Township has a fantastic athletic program for both indoor and outdoor sports.  Egolf extended thanks to all the teams, coaches, commissioners, and Don Miller for keeping the sports programs going.  He said, too, that "Mark Roberts and his crew" do a great job cooperating with all the commissioners and keeping the fields in shape. 
    • Nicholas spoke to the Community Park amphitheater project.  She said that the committee looked at a prefab amphitheater in Catasauqua and also one done by the Municipal Complex architect in 2007.  She said that one of the concerns was that a wooden structure would not match the other buildings in the complex.  She called CMX, and asked architect Jerry DeFelice to do a simplified plan - as opposed to the elaborate sketches they originally produced. 
    • Nicholas asked the Board to agree to her meeting with the architect at 4 PM on Wednesday.  She then asked Kline if they had to go out for bids to have plans drawn.   Kline said that bids are not necessary for professional services.  Nicholas said that because it is not an advertised public meeting, only one other Supervisor can be present. 
    • She is planning to work with the architect to develop a simplified plan for a structure with good sound quality that will use brick and be less expensive.  She did speak with Catasauqua officials about what is good and bad about their bandshell.  Miller and Schnaedter will be attend the meeting.  Howell offered that he is available should Miller not be able to attend.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - reported that the committee's topic was the quarterly newsletter.  The first draft has been given to the Supervisors and Miller asked that they get back to Schnaedter with their comments.  Howell said that he finds the full page ad by Easton Hospital to be significant.  He is glad they are back (with an ad).
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee met on April 8th and the budget for March is on track.  She said that Finance Manager Farley put a three year revenue plan together and it will be discussed at the committee's May (13th at 5 PM) meeting.  She asked that Supervisors email comments to her (and/or attend the May meeting).  Nicholas said that it will help with the upcoming 2010 budget.  Other topics covered include:
    • The archiving of documents - It is still in progress.  Farley has finished going through the boxes stored in the Community Center and is now tackling the boxes stored in the Municipal Building.  Farley will contact the EASD (Easton Area School District) to get their plans for the tax boxes it has stored there as there is no space for them.
    • Going paperless - The committee will discuss Chuss' issues (about access from other than Township owned computers) with the IT consultant.  They talked about emailing his packet to him if he is out of town.  Chuss offered that if they need help with this, this is what he does for a living and if he doesn't know the answer, there are dozens of people he can call on his cell phone, who will know.
    • The committee discussed a cost saving program but it must be discussed further because of Federal regulations regarding the use of taxpayer money for employee incentive programs.
    • The Waste Management trash collection contract will require an increase to residents' rates.  Nicholas asked to schedule a public workshop/meeting on July 16th to explain the rate increase.  She said that the committee would like to include a notice (of the meeting) with the June utility billing.  Nicholas said that the constant rate over the current five year contract was calculated from an average of the five year rates and that the increase in population was not considered (in the figures).  The committee will bring it to the BoS in May when the figures are known.   The workshop/meeting date will be confirmed at a May BoS meeting after the figures have been presented to the Supervisors and will be posted on the Township website.
    • The Stockertown fire protection contract for the Forks Fire Department was discussed.  It is due to expire in April 2010 and the committee does not want to "blind side" Stockertown. If the rate is going to increase, she would like to let Stockertown know so that it can include the new amount in its budget.  The committee will discuss the call volume at its May 13th meeting.  It will be an agenda item.  They will use Fire Chief Bryan Weis' detailed fire call report - making the new rate determination based on facts and not just on a guess.  Nicholas said that it will take a while to figure this out and added that she doesn't think that Forks residents should be paying for Stockertown's fire calls.  She thinks Stockertown should pay for its own fire calls.  Nicholas also said that she would like to invite the Public Safety Committee and the Borough of Stockertown to a meeting as well. 

Sandy Hanks (resident and candidate for Elected Auditor) asked about the increased number of residents and the refuse billing.  She wondered why their payments do not cover the difference.  Farley said that the new contract is not yet in place but that Waste Management has offered to keep the current rate for one additional year.  The current contract was for five years with different rates (per resident) for each year.  The rate charged to residents was an average of the five years.  The renewal will be at the fifth year rate - higher than the average that residents are paying now.  In the first two years of the current contract, the Township collected more than it had to pay, in the third year it was the same, and in the last two years it was short - but in the end, ideally (given no increase in residents) it would all work out.  The new residents are paying the year three rate - less than what is being paid by the Township to Waste Management on their behalf.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - verified that he has received only one application for the Planning Commission (PC) opening.  The interview has been set for 7 PM on May 7th (in a workshop) prior to the 7:30 PM BoS meeting.  The (PC) appointment will be an agenda item at the meeting.

Engineer's Report - Hay - not present

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that last September the BoS granted conditional approval for Crayola's 15 acre solar panel land development.  Crayola was in a great rush to get the project done by the end of the year (2008 - to take advantage of Federal energy tax credits.)  Since then the credits were extended and Fotowatio (USA) has "fallen off the face of the earth... apparently they lost their power..."  Someone contacted Klein on behalf of Crayola and they will be working with a new company to "resurrect their plan."


Ordinance 312 – Vacation of portion of Glover Road (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that as a result of the plan for Fort James 3, Glover Road was realigned to intersect with the new Braden Boulevard and a portion of Glover Road - a Township road - is no longer needed.  Ordinance 312 vacates that no- longer-needed portion and gives the land to the adjacent property owners (to the middle of the former road bed) - John and Donald Ackerman get half and JG Petrucci gets half.  The ordinance passed in a 5:0 vote.


Police CALEA Accreditation (Greg Dorney, Police Chief) -  Chief Dorney explained that CALEA stands for Coalition of Accredited Law Enforcement Agencies and is a national organization.  An overview of the program was in the Supervisors packets for the April 2nd meeting - along with a letter from January 25th to the Township Manager with a detailed overview of the program, a March 23rd memo from Dorney to the officers titled "Why Accreditation Is Important To Me," and a call service report (grouped by codes) for the years 1999-2008.  Police CALEA accreditation was a topic at the January goal setting meeting.

Henning Holmgaard (former Supervisor, Forks' liaison to the EAJSA, and current candidate for Supervisor) offered a definition of what accreditation is:  A police department goes through a series of tests given by their peers to see that their performance standards are up to the standards of the level being applied for. (Forks PD achieved State accreditation in 2005 and was re-accredited in early December 2008.) Holmgaard said that Dorney is now part of the State accreditation team.  Dorney offered that Detective/Accreditation Manager James F. Rowden is a member as well.

Dorney said that there are currently only six CALEA accredited law enforcement agencies in PA - out of 1200 plus departments.

Dorney said that accreditation is the implementation of professional standards based on best practices.  The standards for CALEA are developed by nationally, and in some cases, internationally recognized police practitioners.   There are 438 standards and under each there are sub-sections with a lot more standards.

Police development will be how the standards are implemented within the department.  The department must then meet the adopted standards and maintain them on a day-to-day basis.  It takes three years (and random audits) and at the end, a team of outside professionals comes in for a week and goes through "doors and drawers" and decides if the standards are being met.

Dorney said that it is essentially a risk management program that looks at crucial high risk activities that have the potential, if not done properly, to end up in costly litigation for the municipality.  He offered that he believes in it greatly.

The initial cost for the program is $1,570 (based on the number of authorized individuals in the department - currently 24).  Dorney said that he would like to use the existing training fund.  In year two the cost will be $207 for approximately $1,800 total.  Dorney is looking at a five year timeline and expects to be fully CALEA accredited in July of 2014.

Dorney reviewed the service report that was in the Supervisors's packets.  In 1999, the department responded to 3,428 calls.  Last year there were 7,656 calls for service - no homicides.  In 2007 the department handled its first homicide in a long time.  "It was handled from start to finish by our agency and resulted in one of the fastest convictions in Northampton County history on a murder charge."  Dorney added that they see just about everything (in calls) and that it is important that the department set high standards for itself.

Howell thanked Chief Dorney for his well done presentation and asked for a motion.  It was offered by Chuss and seconded by Nicholas. 

In discussion, Egolf asked how the department officers view the program - because "without a buy-in, things fail."  Dorney said that they all back it.  Egolf offered that it is very good that this is not "from the top down type of initiative" and congratulated Dorney.

Lilly Gioia (resident and write-in candidate for Supervisor) asked if the CALEA program standards cover domestic situations, particularly child abuse.  She said that when the the economy in a downturn, domestic abuse cases rise.  Dorney said that it is covered currently by State law and is in the State accreditation program.  He added that she is right, domestic issues have risen.

The vote was 5:0 to approve Forks Township Police Department's move toward national accreditation.

Request for acceptance of the Community Center roof repair (Mark Roberts, DPW Director) - Roberts explained that the Community Center roof leak repair bids were opened on April 13th.  Three bids were received however, Alfero & Company's low bid of $15,288 did not have the required "statement of bid qualifications" attached.  Robinson Roofing Services was the next low bid at $15,853 and the third bid was from Alan Kunsman Roofing at $24,750.  In a 5:0 vote, the Supervisors accepted the Robinson Roofing bid.

Request for acceptance of the Remediation of the Police Dept. ductwork (Mark Roberts, DPW Director) - Tabled because of questions that need to be researched.

Purchase of World Trail Fitness Package (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that last year, the outdoor fitness trail in the Community Park was removed because it was in disrepair.  The Recreation Board's recommended replacement equipment did not meet the PA COSTARS program.  However, comparable equipment was found from Playworld Systems, a State approved COSTARS vendor (no bids needed).  It is currently "on sale" and a little less expensive than the original choice.  The Recreation Board is amenable to the substitution.  The not-to-exceed amount of $8,099 will come from the Parks & Recreation fees (a fund from money paid by developers for that purpose).  Howell said that $9,000 was set aside last year.  The purchase of the "Trail World package 1" was approved in a 5:0 vote.

Review of Public Works (5) year Plan (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - Chuss said that the BoS has the Recreation and the Facilities Plans.  The remaining two plans will be in the next meeting packets.  They will be reviewed at the Public Works Committee meeting in May and will be presented to the Board by Mark Roberts at a May 21st public workshop at 6:30 PM before the regular BoS meeting.

Nicholas asked that the names of employees in the Facilities Plan be removed and replaced with their position titles.  All the plans will be changed to show titles instead of names.

Executive Session - The session was requested by Nicholas.  The purpose was to discuss a real estate matter.  No action was taken 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.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hearing on Recreation Land Design - 4/16/2009

Public Hearing to gather information on design of Recreation area at Newlins & Richmond Roads - 6:30 PM

Township Manager Rick Schnaedter explained that the Township is applying for a parks planning grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for the 53 acre Township owned parcel at the intersection of Newlins and Richmond Roads.  A hearing to solicit public input (what the community wants for recreation) is a part of the application. 

In 2003 the Township had a feasibility study done for both recreation and a public works garage.   Schnaedter showed a map of the area.  It shows power lines running through the parcel.  He noted that there are restrictions for what can and cannot be done near power lines.  Schnaedter pointed to the area towards the east side of the parcel that the 2003 feasibility study suggested for the public works garage. 

Schnaedter said, too, that the Township conducted two recreation surveys (the most recent was in 2006).  The grant will allow a consultant to visit the site, discuss recreation uses with the "various organizations, the public, the Board of Supervisors, the Rec Board and develop a plan" for the site that will be similar to the central park "that we are so proud of."  He then asked for audience suggestions.

Public Comments:

Chris Henry - Forks Township Athletic Association (FTAA) Baseball Commissioner - said that there is a definite need for baseball fields.  He said that they broke a record for sign-ups this year and that at this point they are using retention basins.  He said that at the lower age levels where they had five to six teams last year, they have eight this year and anticipate 10 teams next year.  He said too, that there is a need for more lacrosse fields.  If the Forks Elementary School expands, they will lose the use of two fields.  Henry said that they need four more fields with 60 ft. diamonds.

Ty Corallo - FTAA Softball Commissioner - said that there are a record number of teams on the fields this year and that, at the lower age levels (5-6 year olds and 7-8 year olds) they are trying to get 10 teams onto one field.  T-Ball is using Braden Park but there are no defined diamonds there, and no backstops, etc.  At yet another level there are 12 teams trying to get on three more fields.  He asked for two additional fields or that the fields at Braden be developed.  He said that there is increasing interest at the lower age levels and that the fields are so used that the teams cannot get practice time.  He added that the Community Park facilities are fantastic and that tournaments spread goodwill around the area - not to mention, bring in dollars to the Township.  Tonight the Community Park is packed.

Chris Henry said that there are 25-27 teams using five baseball fields.  The Winchester field and the 90 ft. diamond at Lafayette/Meco are being used.

Jeff Braido - said that he grew up in Forks Township and has seen the Township grow since he moved back four years ago.  He said that there is definitely a need for recreational space.  His own kids are getting involved in sports and more fields are needed.  Braido said that he lives on Crown Drive in Vista Estates.  His backyard up against the (Newlins/Richmond) Township land and he is "a little worried" about the location of the public works building - as drawn - near existing houses.  He suggested it be moved nearer to Newlins or nearer to Richmond.  He is concerned about the noise and traffic in and out of the building, especially early in the morning.  Braido said that he is in favor of as many athletic fields as possible to give kids as much opportunity as possible in their younger years. 

Chairman Howell asked how the fields might be multipurpose - what sports can share the same acreage?  He said that there is pressure on recreation land and at (what developers are paying) $80,000 an acre it is "out of site" for the Township to buy more property.  Corallo said that at the Community Park there are practice fields that straddle each other but the fields get over-used and because of the heavy use, the grass  cannot "get back up."  Corallo said too, that the FTAA is united in stating that the Township needs more types of fields.

Jim Wideman (D write-in candidate for Supervisor and former Planning Commission member) - said that he lives "next door" to the Township land and that he would prefer a more leisurely park with a pavilion, trees, and a walking path - something more recreational.  Wideman said that the Community Center/Park is almost all organized sports and that there is "a large senior community that would love to have a park - to take their families to..."  As to the public works garage, he suggested that there are alternative sites in the industrial areas more suited to trucks.

Howell asked (FTAA) about the recreation land as open dusk to dawn or is it envisioned with night lights?  The FTAA just wants a place for kids.  Supervisor Nicholas remarked that it's very expensive to operate the lights.  Supervisor Miller said that right now there are only two fields under lights.

Nicholas asked if the public works garage siting is allowed under the recreational grant application.  Schnaedter said that the area for the garage would not be included in the planning.  Nicholas added that she, too, thought there are other locations for the garage.

Howell said that the current DPW site is now too small and is poorly laid out.  Schnaedter offered that one of its disadvantages is its proximity to the Delaware River.  Zoning Officer Tim Weis said that the elevation change on the property is 50 or so feet and that public works vehicles are stored off-site.  DPW Director Mark Roberts said that they are stored in five different locations.

Supervisor Chuss said that the 2003 study recommended a detention basin on the (recreation) site.

Roberts said that seven to eight acres are needed for a new garage. 

Weis said that the grant application is to look at what is feasible for the site.  Miller offered that the best land is along Newlins Road and that because of the slope, the other parts would have to be terraced.  He said, too, that URDC designed the Community Park and it is one of the best community parks in the Lehigh Valley.

Howell asked if the grant would consider all of the Township's recreation land/needs.  Schnaedter answered that the grant is just for the development of this specific site.  He added, however, that the input about what is needed, for example at the Braden Park and at the five acres behind the Community Center, will help in planning, to "take some of the athletic burden off of this site."

Chuss said that he would like an overall recreation plan in place so that it could be incorporated by the consultant into what can be done at the Newlins/Richmond site.  And, he said that it would be nice to have the Comprehensive Plan (and the recreation plan) in place before the study is begun.

Schnaedter said that Towamensing got at $50,000 grant to develop a 43 acre park.  There is a 50% match.  The application deadline is April 22nd and it will be eight months until an answer is received.  After that, the process will take some time.  Howell said that there will be ample time for more public comment.

Nicholas said that a pool was number one on both Township recreation surveys and she thinks land should be set aside for one - even if the land is used as fields in the near term.  She also wants volley ball courts.

Supervisor Egolf said that at the Monday night Parks & Recreation Committee meeting, football, soccer, and lacrosse were represented.  He said that every outdoor sport is vying for the fields.

Howell asked that an inventory of all the detention ponds be taken to see which are suitable for other activities - "anything from a dog park to lacrosse."

Schnaedter thanked everyone for coming and the hearing was adjourned.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Forks Supervisors' Primary contest - Missing Democrats found!

Two Democratic candidates have declared as write-ins for the Forks Supervisors May Primary bringing the field to seven candidates for two openings.  Democrats Lilly Gioia and James Wideman will have their work cut out for them since their names will not appear on the ballot.

In fact, there will be no names on the Democratic Supervisors Primary ballot.  The incumbents, Bonnie Nicholas and Don Miller did not make their decisions to not to seek re-election known until after the March 10th petition filing deadline had passed. 

The press release put out by the Forks Township Democratic Committee, a subcommittee of the Northampton County Democratic Party, states that both Gioia and Wideman have the local committee's endorsement. 

There are five candidates on the Republican ballot - and all went through the signature gathering and paperwork process to get there.  The Republican contenders are David Billings, Henning Holmgaard, Michelle Rodgers, Simon Sikora, and Kevin Wall.

Gioia and Wideman will be asking Forks registered Democratic voters to write in their names on May 19th. 

For a listing of all Forks voters' Primary ballot choices, see the FAC Primary page.  For newspaper coverage of the write-in candidates' announcement, see Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) and Tony Nauroth (Express Times).

Sunday, April 05, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 4/2/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Forks Supervisors learned that Waste Management has agreed to a one year contract extension (at the same price) and that KMRD has, as expected, filed an appeal of Judge Giordano's ruling on the Procedural Challenge.  The next stop for it will be the Commonwealth Court.

However, the lion's share of BoS time was spent in discussion of the playground equipment purchase for the first of Fork's neighborhood parks.  The discussion ran the gamut of the virtues and vices of neighborhood parks, teenagers, Easton's park problems, the as yet unfinished Comprehensive Plan, and even an implication that the standing committees are not working.  It lasted an hour.

Please read Lynn Olanoff's Express Times article for more on the Penn's Ridge Park discussion.

The meeting was attended by seven EAHS students who where there to fill a government course requirement.

Public Comments (non-agenda) 

Fernando Cabrera of Cara Court spoke on behalf of the 59 homeowner members of the Lafayette Park Green homeowners association.  He said that he brought two issues to the Board.  The first was a safety issue about the intersection of Meco Road/Thomas Drive/Jamie Court.  The association wants a stop sign there, east and west.  He said that the road is almost a drag strip and it is a school bus stop area used by 25-30 children

The second issue was a request for an ordinance to address the storage of abandoned vehicles (or vehicles in a state of disrepair) on private property.  Mr. Cabrera said that homeowners' properties were devaluing already because of the market and an abandoned vehicle in the neighborhood doesn't help.  The police department had already told him that there is no current ordinance and their hands are tied.  The vehicle, a pick-up truck with a cap, is registered, insured, and inspected - but its owner has deflated the tires and left it in the driveway at (he believes) 90 Thomas Drive.

The homeowners association has levied fines and the owner pays them when a lien is about to happen.

Mr. Cabrera is in property management in NJ and PA.  He said that his firm has helped municipalities craft such ordinances and he would be happy to assist in this process.  Howell asked for his business card.

Regarding the speeding issue, Chuss suggested that homeowners see Chief Dorney to get some of the SLOW DOWN signs.  Dorney said that they still have a few available.

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Miller - spoke to the success of the Downtown Easton Merchants' Initiative held (March 15th) at the Community Center.  The fair showcased Easton merchants' offerings and was busy all day. The merchants were very pleased. He reported, too, that the two day Egg Show (March 28-29) was very crowded and the exhibitors were pleased with the turnout and the facility.  They will be back again next year.  Miller said that it was a "win-win" for the Township and for all the exhibitors at the show.  He added that he was told that the money they made on Saturday alone was more than they made in a two day show last year.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf (after a side note that Miller was a "good egg") 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 $8,346,476. 

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's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st at 8:00 AM.  The public is welcome to attend.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the Board has copies of the five year plan drafts for Public Works.  He said that the did a "kind of sanity check on them" and he thought overall they looked very good - outstanding.  He asked the Supervisors to look at the drafts and make comments or suggestions.  The committee will review the comments at its next meeting with the goal of getting the plans as close to final as possible before BoS discussion and adoption.  DPW Director, Mark Roberts, noted that the final draft of the sewers and facilities plan is ready but he did not like the format of the final draft and is fixing it.  He will have it for the next meeting.  Chuss said that the next committee meeting is on Tuesday, April 14th at 7:30 AM.  The committee will have the initial information for the potential new DPW garage.  The report will be sent to the BoS by the end of the month, or at least by the next BoS meeting.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that there have been no meetings since the last BoS meeting.  The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 13th at 6 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee's next meeting will be on Monday, April 13th at 5 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee's next meeting will be Wednesday, April 8th at 5 PM in the Municipal Building meeting room.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that he received notification from the Northampton County Department of Administration that the grant application drafted by (then) Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Weis has been "successful."  It is for mitigation of flooding on Kesslersville Road.  The project estimate is $250,000.  Forks' (match) portion is 25% or approximately $62,000.

Howell said that the project is for a stretch of Kesslersville north of Newlins that will be raised with drainage going under it - along the natural swale.  He added that it will be a great benefit to the community after heavy rainstorms.

Schnaedter said, too, that the newsletter is at the publishers and he hopes to have the proofs shortly.

Nicholas asked Schnaedter to comment on the Waste Management contract.  He said that Solicitor Kline has a copy and is putting an agreement together for the Board.  It will be a regular agenda item at the next meeting.

Egolf asked who will be attending the April 7th (free) Energy Forum?  Schnaedter said that he and Tim Weis will be attending - and any Supervisors who wish to go.  Schnaedter said that he knows Weis is excited about it.

Engineer's Report - Hay - no report.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that he has prepared a small agreement for a one year extension to the Waste Management contract.  Waste Management has agreed to hold the rate for one year, from September 1, 2009 through August 31, 2010 and the agreement allows the parties to extend the contract with two additional one year terms.  He has sent the agreement to Waste Management for signature.  When he gets it back, he will put it on the agenda for Board consideration.

Kline said, too, that he attended a pre-construction conference this week for the Kiddie Academy (going in at Sullivan Trail Business Park).  The project is finally going to start in the spring. 

And, Kline told the Board he is "not surprised" (but is disappointed) that KMRD has filed an appeal of Judge Giordano's ruling on the Procedural Challenge.  KMRD has lost it twice, once before the Zoning Hearing Board and once before the local courts.  It will now go to the Commonwealth Court. 

Kline said that his opinion is that this challenge as well as the substantive challenge are examples of greedy developers suing the Township to try to force zoning changes that would provide them with a "multimillion dollar windfall."  The cases have nothing to do with affordable housing since they had approval for affordable housing and they chose not to build it.  The developers allege that they are interested in preserving farmland but nothing can be "farther from the truth" since they are proposing 3,000 units in the Farmland Protection District.

In closing, Kline said, "I want to make it clear to everybody, that the Board and the Township intends to continue to vigorously defend against these challenges to the Forks Township Zoning Ordinance."

Chuss asked what reasons have been given for the appeal and Kline said that all that has been filed so far is a notice of appeal saying "We're appealing."   He guesses that they are using the old reasons "plus a few more indicating that Judge Giordano didn't know what he was doing - in more legal terms than that."


Approval of Playground Equipment – Penn's Ridge (Bob Egolf, Supervisor) - Egolf briefed the Board on the history of the neighborhood parks concept, in particular, tot-lots.  The concept originated last year with the Parks & Click to enlarge Recreation Standing Committee under Howell.  The first to be solely a Township park is Penn's  Ridge.  (Egolf noted that the Township did contribute to the playground equipment at the Forks Elementary School last year.)

Egolf said that he and Nicholas have come up with the plan for Penn's Ridge and it has been widely distributed.  He said that the Upstream Farms neighbors "have been interested and concerned about the impact on their neighborhood."  And, he added, that both he and Schnaedter as well as others have spoken to them.  They understand the reason for the park and like the fact that the basketball court will be as far away from their homes as possible.

Egolf said that he is asking for Board approval for the tot-lot equipment purchase.  He described two pieces of playground apparatus, one for "really little folks" ages 2-5 and the other for ages 5-12.  The one for the older children will have climbing ladders and an overhead gym - plus a few other things.  There will be a seesaw and swing sets with infant seats and regular belt seats.  Weis showed slides of the type of equipment to be purchased.

Egolf said that he is also asking the Board for approval to get the play equipment installed by the manufacturer.  He said that it is a "long and arduous" process to get this all installed in a timely manner, and he feels that it would be best done by the manufacturer.

Howell asked what other peripheral items might be included at no charge.  Egolf said that the offer for this month only (from the supplier) is probably one jumping truck/car.  Last month there were other items offered.

Nicholas asked about bike racks.  Egolf said that he suggests that they don't invest in any since his experience is that the kids are right there and they don't use them.  They simply let their bikes lie in the grass.  Nicholas then asked about the sandbox and Egolf said that he has not yet been able to locate one that does not have removable corner seats.  The removable seats disappear overnight.

Sandy Hanks (resident) asked if the price was still $64,000?  Egolf said that it is a bit that under but he is only talking about the play lot equipment.  The basketball court must be put out for bid in order to get a price for it.  He noted that the money for the neighborhood parks is coming from developer paid impact fees.  Builders have given money or land or both, specifically for this type of expenditure.  And, that account has more than adequate funds to do neighborhood parks.

Howell asked the total cost of the play equipment.  Egolf answered that it costs $26,026 and that installation will be an additional $9,617. 

Howell then asked Finance Manager Farley if the installation money can come out of the impact fee account.  Farley was unsure about the prevailing wage rate requirement.  Kline said that if the equipment is in the (PA) COSTARS program, negotiations can be done.  The Township is not going out for bid.

Howell noted that the play lot (on the plan) seems larger than before.  Egolf said that it is.  It was 40 ft X 40 ft and now it is doubled to 40 ft X 80 ft on the vendor representative's recommendation - in order to accommodate the two pieces of equipment.

Howell asked about a barrier between the parking lot and the tot-lot - to keep cars from crossing through.  Roberts said that the DPW could do that and Hay said that there is curbing there.

Nicholas asked Chief Dorney for his opinion on trees all around the edge.  Dorney said that there seems to be plenty of space between the trees.  Hay offered that the trees in the plan are deciduous and not pine.  Egolf explained that the branches do not go all the way to the ground.

Howell said that he recalled that when Linda Hill talked to the Board about the play structure at Forks Elementary, interconnecting tubes were not to be permitted because a child inside is not visible.  Instead they used a walkway.  Egolf said that he would talk with the vendor's rep about that.

Next, Chuss voiced what he said were the concerns of residents with whom he has spoken.  He said he'd be "remiss" if he didn't bring their concerns to the Board.  He said that residents have expressed their concerns to him and that the majority are against "this" although many support it.  Chuss said that he doesn't think this has been communicated well to residents.  He bases this on what he termed the confusion and disinformation that he's encountered over the past few weeks regarding plans to put a park in Penn's Ridge.

He narrowed the concerns to four:

  • The land use is being changed from detention pond to recreation with structures on it.  Chuss said that developers are required by zoning to notify people who live within 300 feet of land use changes.  He thought it would have been "common sense courtesy" to follow the guidelines of the zoning ordinance and notify Penn's Ridge residents. Chuss thought that nearby residents should have been notified of this meeting so that they had the opportunity to come and raise any concerns that they  have or to get questions answered.  (He said that he knows residents can come to any meeting.)
  • Chuss said he felt that issues from the last meeting were not adequately addressed.  Specifically he mentioned talk of increased traffic, increased noise, and illicit or illegal behavior on "this property."  He said it's hard to identify who "these people" are since "they come from anywhere and anywhere."  They are "people who use abusive or offensive language in the playgrounds."  Vandalism... users of illegal drugs... and the potential that gangs could possibly meet.  He said that "maybe this won't happen... and probably won't happen, but there is a good chance."  Chuss said that the Community Park is facing vandalism of the soda machine and to the scoreboard and there was even an attempt to steal the goal posts when the price of metal was high last year.
  • Chuss said that for him, "This is a complete and total about face regarding the idea of neighborhood parks in general."  Developers are required to provide a percentage of their land for recreation or make a contribution to the recreation fund.  He said that over the years, "people in this room" have said that they did not want to take the land, they wanted money added to the recreation fund.  The money could then be spent at the Township's discretion and also, the Township did not want neighborhood parks scattered all over the Township.  He said that the reasons were maintenance concerns, management and upkeep, and policing.  He doesn't think this change has been given adequate consideration.  But the issue that bothers him the most is the using of the $1.9 million recreation fund money without an overall plan for it.  He said it is a finite fund.  He feels that it should be spent "for everyone in the Township and not just for particular neighborhoods... or what certain people in the Township want." 
  • Chuss then said that he never understood that the purpose of the Standing Committees was for the initiation and moving forward of ideas that Supervisors have.  He thought that the idea of the committees was to review items that came from department heads and various boards for initial feedback before communicating them to the Board.

Howell clarified the role of the Standing Committees.  He said it was his proposal to the Board two years ago and that he knows he sent a copy to Chuss.  Howell said that "part of the role of the subcommittee is in fact to overview and supervise indirectly on behalf of the Board a certain function of government...  It serves as a fact finding body to do and fact find on those matters directed by the Board... to make recommendations back to the Board." 

Howell said that he presented the neighborhood parks proposal to the Board and the Board referred it to Parks & Recreation.  It has now come back to the Board, as it should have.  To the issues of parks and the planning of parks, Howell deferred to Kline.

Kline said that under the MPC (Municipal Planning Code) the Township can require that developers set aside land for recreation.  It cannot force developers to pay fees but it can get fees in lieu of land.  The developers pay the fees because often the land is worth more than the money.  This give municipalities some control over where parks are to be located.  In the case of Forks, in most instances, the Township has taken the money, a per lot fee on both residential and commercial developments.  This way, the Township decides the appropriate place to locate the recreational facilities.

Howell addressed Chuss' comment about parks as a venue for crime and gangs.  Howell said that it sounds like every time the Board addresses a neighborhood park, Chuss will say that there will be crime, drug use, and gang activity.  He said that the developer for Vista Estates gave land and the Township put a ball field there.  He asked Chuss if he will object to a tot-lot there?  Chuss indicated that it's a ball field.  Howell asked if neighborhood kids could go there and fly kites, play pick-up games, smoke cigarettes... To each, Chuss answered, "Absolutely." 

Howell asked Chief Dorney if he will have trouble policing tot-lots.  Dorney said it will be just another area to patrol.  Police patrols already go through Penn's Ridge so this will just be a route arrangement to do an "eyeball."

Howell said that the parks are a venue for children and parents and that it is very selfish to object putting a recreation area in other than the Community Park because it might be a "venue for crime."  Howell said that one of the Penn's Ridge residents asked, when he learned that there was going to be a basketball court there, if it would be placed in such a way that he couldn't put up a volley ball net.  Howell said that it is obvious that the area has been adopted by the residents for recreation.

Egolf gave Chuss credit for thinking it (his concerns) through.  However, he said, the area is already a recreation area.  Chuss said that it is a designated detention pond on the plan.  Egolf said that there's a sign there that says it's a recreation area.

Egolf then asked Chuss how he voted on the $10,000 donation to the school for recreation equipment.  Chuss said that he voted yes because it was an upgrade to an existing park and because another group (not the Township) was doing it.  Egolf asked about the behavior there.  Chuss said there are adults there and there are security officers at the school.  Egolf said that it is open to the public during non-school hours - when there are no security officers nor adults present.  It is open to the public on weekends and all summer long.  He pointed out that it looks like a double standard.

Egolf said that in the planning of the Penn's Ridge park, the committee has had conversations with Chief Dorney about patrols, enforcement, and signs.  As to Chuss' "about face" reference, Egolf said that years ago, the Township had 5,000 residents and today it has 16,000 residents  Many young couples have young children and they deserve recreation.  The Recreation Board approves of this park as well. 

Lastly, Egolf said that the entire amount of money needed for the neighborhood parks program was outlined and brought before the Board last year. 

Nicholas said, "When our country comes to the time when we punish the good for the few that are bad, it's a sad day."  The economy is bad.  There are bad people out there.  As far as planning, the Township is planning an amphitheater for the Community Park and has talked about other things as well.  In addition, the committee has talked with the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association and has now brought this to the Board for a vote.  Kids need a place to play.

Chuss said that two of the Easton parks are having problems with irresponsible behavior and gang activity.  He said that he wants an overall plan for the $1.9 million and he wants the Comprehensive Plan in place.  He referred to this as "ready, set, spend."  He thinks it is fiscally irresponsible.

Howell said that "this is not a midnight construction of a park."  It is being done in daylight.  He suggested that Chuss' cadre and army of defenders come to the meeting when the basketball court is discussed. 

Miller said that he was put in charge of recreation 20 years ago - because no other Supervisor wanted it.  He said that back then Panuccio gave land in his developments to the Township.  That land is the swale and a detention pond, neither of which is suitable for recreation.  After that land gift, the recommendation was to collect money instead.  The developers were happy to pay it.  Some of that money paid for the current Community Park and Community Center.  Recently the Township did request (and receive) five acres of land adjacent to the Community park from Signature Homes.  As to the Penn's Ridge park, "nobody knows for sure what will happen."  The Recreation Board said "let's give this one a try and see how it works."  There are problems in the Community Park.

Nicholas said that when asked for a building lot for recreation, the developer Jim Seitz gave it... in addition to the fees.  Chuss said that Mr. Seitz even offered playground equipment.

Nicholas then asked the EAHS students who were present what they thought.  One of them said that the basketball court at the Community Park is always crowded and that the leagues take it over.  Also, the big kids kick the little kids off the court and when you are 10 years old, you don't argue.  He thinks the basketball court at Penn's Ridge is a good idea.  And, he guarantees that more kids do drugs in big open fields than in parks with parents around or checking on their kids.  He also said that he has many friends who are not from Forks and kids like to play with their friends.  They try to find places to play (basketball) somewhere in the middle.

Miller said that the Recreation Board is asking for another basketball court in the Community Park. 

Howell offered that "public parks are public parks."

Egolf made the motion to approve the expenditures for the tot-lot as laid out - and the installation - for a total of $35,643 with a cap on it not to exceed that amount.  Nicholas seconded the motion.  Howell noted that the interest on the developers' funds goes back into the general revenue fund and if it did not, this park could have been paid for with the interest (and not with the principal.)

The vote was 4:1 with Chuss casting the nay.


Resolution # 090402-1 Acceptance of roads in Frost Hollow Knolls, Phases 8 and 9 (Karl Kline, Solicitor) -  Kline reported that the Hay's office has inspected the roads and that they are okay to be accepted.  The approved resolution allows the roads to be qualified for Liquid Fuels Tax Credits from the State.  The resolution passed with a 5:0 vote.

Ordinance 312 – Vacation of portion of Glover Road (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that JG Petrucci, the developer of Fort James III, built a new section of Glover Road that now connects at a 90 degree angle to Braden Boulevard.  The northern section that formerly connected to Uhler Road no longer exists.  In these situations (when the Township vacates a road), the adjoining property owners get the land to the middle of the road.  The ordinance also calls for granting deeds to the adjoining landowners, John Ackerman and JG Petrucci.  In discussion Planner Larry Kitson asked when the cones would be removed.  He noted that there is a power pole in the middle of Braden at the Uhler intersection.  Hay said that the PennDOT work is not yet finished.  The vote to advertise the vacation of the former roadway was 5:0.  The ordinance will be considered for acceptance at the April 16th meeting.


Grant Application Public Hearing Request (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter explained that at the last meeting he received authorization to submit a park planning grant to the PA Department of Natural Resources. One of the conditions of the application is that a public hearing must be held before the grant application can be submitted.  The application deadline is April 23rd.  The next BoS meeting is scheduled for April 16th.  The Board discussed the fact that a workshop for Planning Commission (PC) applicant interviews was already scheduled for that night at 6:30 PM. 

The conflict was resolved when, with a 5:0 vote, the Board agreed to move the PC interviews to a workshop before its meeting on May 7th.  Another 5:0 vote resulted in the scheduling of a public hearing for the park planning grant on April 16th at 6:30 PM.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss a real estate land acquisition.  No action was taken by the Board during the executive session.

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