Sunday, May 31, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 5/21/09

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The meeting began after the Board of Supervisors workshop to review the first ever Public Works Department five-year plans (all four of them) and after a lengthy presentation and discussion of the proposed new public works facility.

Please read Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) and Tony Nauroth (Express Times) for more on the new proposed garage.  And, read the FAC workshop notes for more on the five year plans and the public works garage discussion.

Please note that detailed notes of the meetings are being replaced for the summer vacation season with more general notes highlighting only the most important issues discussed and actions taken.  In some instances, guest note writers are providing the text.

Public Comments (non-agenda) 

  • Fernando Cabrera of Lafayette Park Green who addressed the BoS about the safety of an intersection last month, wanted to report that there was an accident at that intersection.  A vehicle hit a school bus with kids on it.  He also commented on emergency response to a 19 month old child who collapsed.  Suburban did not arrive for 15-16 minutes in his estimation. The Forks police were there in 7-8 minutes. P olice Chief Dorney said he heard the ambulance response was 19 minutes.  The Board of Supervisors will make an inquiry and asked for a written report from the Township Manager.
  • Richard Petro, 90 Crown Dr – said that Winchester Drive is open through Vista Estates and there has been both increased traffic and speeds.  He requested a four way stop at the intersection of Lower Way and Winchester Drive (sight distances due to road inclines and declines), and a three way stop at the intersection of Knollwood Drive and Winchester Drive (a safety concern due to the ballpark). 
  • Dan Martyak, current President of the Forks Township Athletic Association (FTAA) - said he was available anytime the Supervisors have questions and asked that they please contact him.  He wanted to clarify three things:
    • In December 2008, the FTAA applied for a $5000 grant with Senator Wonderling’s Office for a summer field hockey clinic. In February 2009, they received a letter that the grant has been held up because the FTAA tax status is not complete. The 990 tax form was not filed. During the April meeting of the FTAA, Dave Billings and John Wieller said they would take care of the tax situation. The recent decision is to hire someone to take care of the FTAA tax status. They have until June 19 to clear up the tax status or lose the grant.
    • The FTAA does not receive direct money from the township. They work with the township on budgeting during formulation of the annual budget.  However, The Recreation Board receives money from the township and pays for most items. The FTAA earns money through sign-ups for sports, snack bar sales, and dances. He provided an outlay of the money they earn: $1000 for background checks for coaches, $1000 for portable johns, $3000 donation for community days fireworks, $3000 for coaches shirts, $4500 for upgrading the snack bar, $6000 for six scholarships for EASD seniors, $1500 for each sport expenses ($12,000 total), $15,000 to the town for lease agreements and field maintenance.
    • They have been attending Parks and Recreation Meetings with Supervisors Egolf and Nicholas since December. They are interested in the fields behind the Community Center being developed. They understand they are waiting on plans from Fred Hay. They would like the fields to be graded and seeded by August, otherwise they will not be able to use the fields next spring. There was discussion between the Township Manager, Public Works Director and Engineer.  Plans are submitted. They need a local contractor who can provide services for rough grading. The Public Works department will do the seeding. If the work is under $10,000, no bids will be needed.

Supervisor Comments

  • Supervisor Nicholas - said that she had a phone message from Thomas Marino about an Eagle Scout project at Gollub Park.  He would like to put in steps and a guard rail at the abandoned concrete platform, and steps and a guard road at St. Anthony’s Nose.  It was determined Thomas should come in with pictures and make a presentation to the Board.  There were concerns raised about liability with providing a guard rail and steps at St Anthony’s Nose.

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 $8,327,748. 

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee met on Tuesday but Supervisor Howell was unable to attend.  Rick Schnaedter provided the following report:  The committee discussed the two requests for stop signs. They suggested a police officer be trained on what would warrant a stop sign, so that these decisions can be made in-house. They also discussed the transition of Suburban EMS moving from the firehouse to their current location.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that he was not present on May 12. The topic discussed was the Public Works facility. Next meeting is June 9 at 7:30 AM.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that the committee met on May 11 and will meet again on June 8.  They discussed the need for new athletic fields and for scholarships.  Supervisor Nicholas spoke about the proposed amphitheater.  She said that she spoke to CMX, who did the work on the municipal complex and two days ago she received a picture (from CMX.) That drawing and CMX's proposal was distributed to the Supervisors and Solicitor.  CMX wants $61,000 to draw plans, and meet with bidders; $5,500 for the conceptual plan ($100 per hour of work); $35,000 for the land development.  Nicholas said that the land development was completed with the municipal complex. This is a band shell with a storage area in the back, and a possible bathroom facility.  The consensus was for Supervisor Nicholas to call and speak of the township’s dissatisfaction with the proposed costs, and ask for a breakdown in prices.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - announced that the Forks Quarterly is at the printer, and should be in the mail shortly. Manager Schnaedter added that the website designer was taking photos of the township today for the website upgrade.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee discussed monthly expenses and revenues at their last meeting, as well as the proposed public works facility.  The next meeting will be June 10.  They are currently working on a 3-year plan.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reported that he and Chairman Howell met with people from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, The Palmer Business Association, and Unity Bank to discuss progress with forming a Forks Business Association.  There will be a presentation to the Board at the second meeting in June.  He also discussed the Emergency Alert System and will put information on the Township website on how to sign up.  Supervisor Chuss read off the website address for the audience,

Engineer's Report - Hay - only agenda items.  However, Hay was asked about progress with the traffic light at MECO and Sullivan Trail and he indicated that PennDOT has review comments for their own design for handicap ramps.  There is an issue with Verizon because they do not wish to relocate the utility poles.  Also, a resident has issues with how the his driveway comes out onto the intersection and PennDOT has issues with the remedy.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - announced that the township was able to acquire 0.66 acres of land for $60. The land was acquired from Northampton County and is next to the township recreation path north of Winchester Road.


Frost Hollow Knolls Deeds of Dedication – Tax Exoneration (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - This is a resolution for the township to agree not to tax itself.  Land was deeded to the township through phases 8 and 9 of Frost Hollow Knolls. There are 8 parcels involved. The Board voted 5-0 to approve this resolution.


Approval of Public Works (5) Year Plan (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - The committee recommendation is that the BOS approve the plan. Individual items can be acted on or not, or changed, in the future. The plan should be approved incorporating comments from the Workshop earlier in the evening.  Chuss made the motion,  Egolf seconded the motion.  Discussion:  When does the BOS approve a Public Works Garage? After the plan is approved.  Motion passed 5-0.  A second motion was made that the BOS endorse pursuing the Public Works Garage.  Motion passed 5-0.

Approval of 2009 Road Program (Mark Roberts, DPW Director) - A motion was made by Chuss to approve the Road Program, and was seconded by Nicholas.  The motion passed 5-0.  Roberts will go out for bids. The money for the program comes out of the liquid fuels fund.

2010 Waste Management Contract (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that in September 2004, the BOS entered into a five year agreement with Waste Management to provide garbage collection and recycling in the township. As part of the new agreement, the contract can be automatically extended for two one year terms, unless either party objects, or wishes to end the contract. Through successful negotiations, Waste Management has agreed to a one year extended term at no change in price.  Miller made a motion to accept the agreement and Nicholas seconded the motion. The motion passed with a vote of 5-0.

Request Authorization to Refund Existing Debt and New Bond Issue (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Gary Pulcini spoke about the estimated $3.2 million public works garage. Five (5) percent of the financed amount needs to be spent in 6 months, and 85 percent needs to be spent within 3 years.  He estimated that the township can currently refund the bond at a 4.75 percent savings.  The guidelines mandate at least a three (3) percent savings. There was a discussion on when the money would be needed. With architectural information, it would be about 3 to 4 months until hard numbers are available. Pulcini indicated advanced funding is done all the time.  Chuss made a motion with Miller seconding, to authorize the refunding process of the current debt including new money to finance the public works facility. The motion passed 5-0.

Request for Authorization to Solicit Request for qualifications of Architectural /Engineering Firms for Public Works Facility  (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - It was mentioned that this was discussed earlier in the workshop.  Chuss made the motion to authorize with Miller making a second.  Supervisors voted 5-0 to authorize the above.

Solar Power Ordinance (Dean Turner, Planning Commission Chairman) - The Planning Commission is requesting authorization for the Solicitor to prepare a Zoning Amendment for solar panels in residential and commercial areas. It was noted by someone on the board that there is a home in Riverview Estates West planning to install solar panels on their roof. Nicholas requested that the PC look at buffer requirements, and explore 100 feet between commercial and residential areas.  Motion was made and seconded to give authorization. Motion passed 5-0.

Award Contract – Police Department Duct Work Bids (Mark Roberts, DPW Director) - The original bids were rejected by the Board at the last meeting.  Telephone quotes were made.  Apollo Unlimited now bids $9000, Freedom Specialties now bids $9995, Core Mechanical bids $8640, and Indoor Air Technologies now bids $10,600.  Roberts recommended the Board approve the low bidder, Core Mechanical.  Nicholas made the motion with Miller’s second. Discussion:  The original bid specs were set up by Cornerstone - Egolf asked if  someone from Cornerstone was present when the first bids were open?  Yes.  Then he asked if Cornerstone participated in the phone bids?  No.  Motion passed 5-0.

Sewer Rehabilitation Bid (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay reported that out of 10 bids, four were less than 6 percent apart.  Nicholas made the motion to accept the low bidder, NAPA Development of Pen Argyl.  Miller seconded.  Supervisors voted 5-0 to accept the low bid of $644,440.  Hay remarked that the bid was about $100,000 less than he thought it would be.

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

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

Public Works 5-Year Plans & proposed new garage – Workshop notes – 5/21/09

The 6:30 PM workshop began with DPW Director Mark Roberts’ presentations of the four DPW 5-year plans, the first ever created for the Public Works Department.  The session ended one hour and forty minutes later - after the presentation of the proposed new public works garage.  Both newspapers were represented.  Please read Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) and Tony Nauroth (Express Times) for more on the new proposed garage.

According to Township Manager Rick Schnaedter, these plans are “liquid documents” and are to reviewed every year and changed as conditions mandate.  Roberts began the process of replacing outdated and dangerous equipment when he began his position with the Township two years ago.

1.  DPW Parks & Recreation 5-Year Plan:

There are four men in the parks crew.  They are responsible for grass mowing and trimming, soccer and football goal posts, playground equipment, ball field preparation and upkeep, trash pickup, painting of park structures, maintenance and winterization of rest rooms, signs, tree trimming/removal/installation, landscaping, week control spraying, correcting drainage problems in the municipal complex, equipment maintenance, sinkhole repair, and snow removal for the complex.  They have 44.15 acres of basins to maintain as well as 204.25 acres of park property.  They mow 180 acres.  (The plan details the basins and parks properties.  Copies of all the plans are available at the Municipal Building.)

There is an existing master plan for the Community Park.  It includes additional parking off of Sycamore and two ball fields with two soccer field overlays (for each) for the as-yet-to-be graded five acres between the park woods and the College Park development – on the former DeWalt farm.  Roberts said that he hopes that the Township will not lose the parking it has been using behind the old Laneco building.

There are many memorials in the Community Park and a plan must yet be developed for their maintenance.  There will be additional trees planted in the arboretum.  Forty have been recently planted.  The oaks along the municipal entrance drive have had some problems; one has died and has been removed and two more will need to be removed.  This is due to root system damage incurred during the municipal complex construction.

The park plan includes the recent purchase of a replacement pick-up truck and in 2010, the hiring of an additional employee.  This is especially necessary now that new tot lots and neighborhood parks are being planned.  These new parks will require the purchase of more equipment as well.

  • Comments: 
    • Supervisor Nicholas said that she objects to the plan’s temporary “naming” of the parks.  These are not the official names and she feels that if they are in the plan, the names will “stick.” If someone donates land, that park will be named for the donor.
    • Chairman Howell noted that the ad hoc committee for the Comprehensive Plan has raised the same park naming issue.  Currently the Comp Plan is using park addresses to differentiate the parks and does not use tenant farmers names. 
    • Nicholas noted, too, that the springhouse on Bushkill Drive is not mentioned in the plan.  Roberts said that the Township does mow the springhouse area. It will be added to the plan list.

Roberts added that over the last three years, the township has removed over 34 trees from the recreation trails.  They were damaged during the construction of the trails.

2.  Sewer Department 5-Year Plan:

One of the three sewer department employees recently left and the remaining two have stepped up to fill the void.  Roberts stated that they are doing a terrific job maintaining the system and they are taking training from the State to become qualified to run the pump station.  At moment, Township Engineer Fred Hay has the only license to run the pump station.

The sewer department is responsible for maintaining all 74.1 miles of sewer lines.  The department is responsible also for manhole flushing and stabilization - there are 2035 manholes.  They have worked with the sewer subcontractor to drain the manholes before the sewer line was televised (to check for storm water infiltration.) 

Some of the easement issues that the sewer department encounters include:

  • Homeowners planting trees in the easements - over the sewer lines.
  • Manholes enclosed by homeowner fences.
  • Fences erected in the easements.

In fact, in the last few days, three homeowners were stopped before they erected fences in the rights of way.  Zoning Officer Tim Weis added that fence issues are being addressed by advising homeowners that fences in the easements are being put there at their own risk and must be removed so that the facilities can be maintained.  Weis said that a lot of the fences go back 30 and 40 years - prior to keeping track of permits.

Supervisor Nicholas said that no fences should be allowed there at all.  Roberts noted that his department is about to remove a fence and a shed because the manhole cannot be reached.  Nicholas remarked that the homeowners should be charged for these removals and that taxpayers should not be paying for the "road department to take down a fence that somebody else put up..."

Chairman Howell suggested that there be an article "at the next occasion" describing the issues and possible actions should access be needed.  Supervisor Egolf noted that the (5-year) plan contains a provision to develop a timeline to advise residents to remove fences and sheds that are blocking access to the sewer lines.  He added that homeowners should be notified that it is their responsibility to remove them by a certain time and if they do not, the township will - and bill them for it.

Projects for 2009 include:

  • The Old Mill Road sewer line restoration (replacing five manholes and over 4,000 feet of pipe.
  • The Meco Road force main and valve (the force main has collapsed and the line will be replaced to Richmond Road.
  • Replacement of the Red Barn sewer line (it has a big sag).

Roberts said that the township should research the inflows/outflows for future meters and that it is important to do it now because the township is being charged only on the "word" of Easton.  He referenced Henning Holmgaard's EAJSA (Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority) report to the Supervisors at the May 7 meeting.

Roberts also said that he would like to restart the installation of exterior meters and he would like to make it a three year project.  This project was started and stopped in the past.  Right now the crew has to get access to everyone's basements to read the meters.  Outside meters would allow the crew to do it at their own pace.

Egolf asked if the equipment listed in the plan will be in the department's budget request for the following year.  Roberts said that the department should have its own camera truck.  In the last two years the township has spent $50,000 with a subcontractor to televise sewer lines.  It costs $190,000 to own a camera truck.  He said that the crew will be trained in how to handle it.  Also, Roberts said that the 1996 jet truck needs to be replaced.  It is a big ticket item and needs to be researched.

Supervisor Chuss said that there is $2 million in the sewer fund that can be used to purchase these items.  Nicholas said that that money must stay in the fund as it is designated for the for the sewer line along the river.  It cannot be used for equipment purchases. 

Howell added that another possible capital expense will be the flow meters.  They will insure that Forks is charged correctly by Easton.  Chuss suggested a subcommittee to research the costs of everything listed in the plan.

3.  Facilities - 5-Year Plan:

Currently one employee is responsible for the internal and external maintenance of the administration building, the police and fire stations, the Community Center, the wrestling building, the parks garage, the public works garage, and the storage units scattered throughout the township.

The employee (Pete Gheller) has weekly maintenance schedules for generators and building inspections.  He does monthly checks of underground tanks and quarterly checks of heating units and water (testing).

In 2009, 13 manholes in the Municipal Complex were found to be holding water - 8 to 10 inches.  Holes were drilled to allow them to drain.  The entire complex's electrical conduits were under that water.

The Community Center roof repairs (already approved) are being looked at and a new maintenance roof inspection will be instituted.  The Police Department duct work is being looked at and sagging gutters have been repaired.  Drains were not installed at construction and draining pads will be installed around some of the doorways because the pavers have shifted. 

4.  Public Works Department - 5-Year Plan:

The Public Works Department has 10 active employees.  One other is currently out on disability.  The department is responsible for maintaining 56 miles of township roadways.  There is an employee training program that includes traffic control, equipment operation safety training, how to handle electrical issues when trees go down, and confined space entry. 

The department is responsible for road maintenance, snow removal, road bank mowing, trash pickup along the roadways, vehicle maintenance on all township vehicles, street signs, street lights, tree trimming, responding to residents' concerns, street sweeping, guide rail maintenance, weed spraying, line painting, road kill removal, animal control, Forks Days support, drainage issues, leaf collection, and sink hole repair.

Roberts said that he is concerned for the future because Forks grew so fast and so many developments came in at the same time, therefore all the roads will start showing wear around the same time - in 8 to 10 years.  He said that the Liquid Fuels money will not be able to handle the need repair expenses.   Roberts said that he would like to start using different treatments on the roads now. 

Some of the older neighborhoods need major roadwork.  Some have curbs with only a 2 inch reveal.  The Board will have to decide who pays to fix the curbing, since technically, the homeowner owns the curb.  Or, will the Board consider the curb replacements as part of the street repair projects?

Roberts thanked the Board for the recent equipment purchases, three new trucks and the John Deere mower with the 21 ft. boom reach.  Roberts said that the Township now owns a paver that can "put down a flat mat." 

Roberts said that he is comfortable with the current manpower level.  Township growth may change that though.

Schnaedter noted that prior to the new equipment purchases, the Township was paying nearly $40,000 per year in repair costs.  He said that the annual bond payment is not much more than that.

Public Works Garage:

Schnaedter summarized the history of the current public works garage.  He said that in 1954 when Forks had less than 5000 residents, the garage was moved from its old site to the one on Frost Hollow Road.  As the township grew, the footprint was expanded.  The sewer operation is deployed from the Frost Hollow site.  Road salt is stored there as are materials used by the DWP.  There is also a pistol range for police department practice and a dedicated area for brush and yard waste. 

In January 2003, Supervisors acknowledged the site's deficiencies and the Architectural Studio was hired to do a feasibility study on where a new facility should be located.  The study recommended the eastern side of the 53 acre township site on the southeast corner of Newlins and Richmond Roads - with the balance of the site devoted to recreation.  (The site of a to-be-planned township park.  See FAC 4/16/2009 Recreation Hearing Notes.)

In 2008 "staff" made the Public Works and Finance & Administration Committees aware of the need for a new garage and Schnaedter urged that it be the number one project.  He is still convinced of the urgent need for it as the facility continues to deteriorate and more equipment is stored outside.  The township insurer has cited the facility for unsafe working conditions and the onsite well water is polluted and per the recommendation of the testing laboratory, cannot even be used to wash hands.  There are also issues of raw sewage at the site.

Roberts gave a slide presentation of the conditions at the public works garage and other township storage buildings.  The issues described/shown include:

  • Equipment is stored in five township locations because there is no room at the garage.  There are only two doors and there are five trucks inside.  Employees cannot walk around the equipment.
  • The safety committee said that parts room stacking is too high but there is no place else to put the parts.
  • There is no room for a new computerized sign machine (approved three years ago at a cost of $23,000) because there is no room and no controlled, clean environment for it.  Employees cannot stand up straight in the current second floor sign room.  The doorway is just over five feet high and everything must be carried up stairs.
  • There is stormwater drainage through the salt building - into the storm drain which flows to the Delaware River.
  • There is no oil separator and everything goes into the storm drain.
  • The mechanic's pit is a safety hazard.  If there is a fire, he has no way to get out.  He welds in the pit.
  • The chemical (hydraulic oil and solvents) storage area is a fire hazard.  The chemicals are stored next to the mechanic's pit.  There is no place else to store them.
  • The trucks with plows do not fit and cannot be worked on in the garage.  They must be welded outside in the snow and rain.
  • There is only one toilet and one sink for 10 employees.
  • The break room is next to the toilet.
  • The water is tested quarterly and the coliform count is too high to count.
  • There have been two septic system failures that have flooded the lunch room.
  • The workers' lockers are only 12 inches wide and must hold uniforms, boots, rain gear, etc.
  • There is no security for the garage doors.
  • The heaters run all winter because there is very little insulation.  Equipment stays wet if washed. The "wet" vehicles cost $160,000.
  • People dump things, including refrigerators and some hazardous materials that require payment in order to dispose of properly, in front of the garage doors.  Employees have to clear it away to open the doors.
  • The back wall of the storage building is collapsing (due to sinkholes) - located near the wrestling building.

Schnaedter said that there is a a regular meeting agenda item to ask the Board to authorize a request for a proposal to go out to architect/engineering firms.  The proposal would then be reviewed by either the Public Works or Finance & Administration Committees (at the Supervisors option).  Once a firm has been chosen, a series of public hearings will be held and input from the Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and staff will be solicited.  The design and exact location will be then be determined based on the information obtained.  The firm will also serve as construction manager and be responsible for completing the building on time and within the budget.  The estimated cost for this service is approximately $6,000.

Finance Manager Farley said that this is a good time to "get the best bang for the buck" because prices are low.  The cost of this type of facility are very low right now, however, if the housing market improves, costs will go up.

Farley said that cost effective financing for the project is a challenge.  Municipal bond rates are currently very low.  And, another challenge is finding a way to do this project without raising taxes.

Farley explained that refinancing the current debt liability of approximately $847,000 (which is due to be paid off in 2023) by extending the bond by four years and adding the $3.2 million to it, will result in an increased annual payment of $23,000 to $26,000.  The goal would be to pay it off in 19 years.  The new public works facility will have a 40-50 year life cycle.  Farley's proposal was prepared with the help of Gary Pulcini, the Township's financial consultant.

  • Supervisors' Discussion:
    • Nicholas asked why the proposal (in the Supervisors' packets) did not show a payment for the new trucks for 2009.  Farley explained that the 2009 payment is coming from the Liquid Fuels fund.  The payment appears for the 2010 schedule and the total payment will remain level for 19 years.
    • Howell asked how the estimated $3.2 million figure was arrived at.  Schnaedter said that he spoke with officials of Williams and New Britain Townships and is confident that $3.2 million is a good number.  Howell said that he thought the process was to evaluate needs, to sit down with the architect/engineer, and then to arrive at a number.  Schnaedter acknowledged that they will come in with a more accurate figure.
    • Howell said that the feasibility study in his packet has pages removed.  Schnaedter said that the complete study was given to the Board twice before - several months ago.  Both Howell and Nicholas asked for another full copy of it. 
    • Howell also said that not all the lands owned by the Township in 2003 were listed in the 2003 study.  Schnaedter said that the study looked at three sites.  Supervisor Miller offered that they were Glover Road (now the fire tower site), the Remaly tract (the 53 acres), and the Dewalt farm ("gobbled up by a developer").  Howell asked if the township owned the 23 acres at Braden in 2003.  (It did.)  Schnaedter offered that Braden has issues because of the airport.  Howell said that he thinks the location is an issue and that the site is the "800 pound gorilla in the room."  He objects to the assumption that there is only one site. 
    • Howell said that he objects to the two agenda items, one to revamp the existing bond issue at $3.2 million and the other to solicit bids for an appropriate engineer.  He offered that all Supervisors agree that the garage is needed.  Howell said that he doesn't write the agenda; it is done by staff and individual Supervisors.  He added that there is no discussion of whether or not the building is needed and is approved.  If it is approved then the process to getting the bond bids and then bids for an architect/engineer should begin.
    • Chuss said that he went to Supervisor courses last year and learned that the chairman oversees the agenda.  He said that all they are looking to do now is to review the five year public works plans and "add, change, delete."  Howell said that a Board endorsed five-year plan is a "word of art" and that approving a five-year plan does not approve every line item in it.  He added that anyone looking at the agenda or the Township website would not know that they were approving a building tonight.  It's in the bond figure.  "It's not very transparent," Howell said.
    • Mr. Pulcini was asked by Solicitor Kline to "shed some light."  Mr. Pulcini said that no documents can be submitted for funding until (a) the building is approved and a cost estimate is done and (b) the contractual regulation per the IRS code must be followed.  Farley asked the length of time to get financing.  Mr. Pulcini said that it takes 1.5 months until the bonds are bid and the rate is locked in.  After that the Board must approve an ordinance.  It will be 2.5 months until the money is in the township account.  Farley said that he added the agenda item.  He apologized for the wording of the item.  He said that he added the item because last year the township lost an opportunity to save $300,000 through refinancing because there wasn't enough time to bring it to the Board before the market turned.  Howell noted that transparency for the public is an issue.
  • Residents' comments:
    • Fernando Cabrera - VP of the Lafayette Park Green Homeowners Association - said that the site is less than a mile from his development.  He wondered if this was the absolute, dedicated location and that considering the level of upkeep required for the Municipal Complex, he recommended the five acre tract behind the Community Park.  He also asked if the the $3.2 million includes the cost to decommission the existing location.  Schnaedter said that the cost is not included and that the existing site will be used for police training, pipe storage, and yard waste storage.  Roberts said that the site Mr. Cabrera suggests is up against homes and that wherever it is, it will be a very clean facility.  Nicholas offered that the Township should be certain that the existing site is brought up to code and that money is set aside to do that.  Farley added that the one of the managers of the Township's trash hauler has volunteered to help on a more advanced recycling program.  He has helped two other communities obtain grants for recycling centers.
    • Jeff Braido of Vista Estates said that his and other Vista Estates homeowners' land borders the proposed site.  He said that the homeowners are worried about noise, dust, fumes, and property devaluation.  Mr. Braido said, too, that Riverview Estates will be building homes adjacent to the site as well.  He wondered why the airport property would not be suitable for the facility since at the moment ball fields are being discussed for the airport site and that would mean that it is okay for kids to play there.  Miller said that there are a height restrictions at specific distances from the runway and a building cannot be put up there.  Nicholas offered that there is a two story house there now.  Roberts said that there are light restrictions as well as prohibitions on plantings that might attract deer or birds and he said that to put it on the rear third of the property would mean building a major roadway to get to Uhler Road.
    • Ken Nagy wondered why the land currently used at the airport cannot be reconfigured.  He said that the value of the airport property will skyrocket with the Chrin Route 33 interchange on Tatamy Road.  Mr. Nagy added that there may be a grant violation with the 53 acre site since it was purchased with Northampton County open space money - a $200,000 grant - and this type of facility is not allowed on "open space."  He suggested placing the facility on land zoned commercial or industrial, where there are no residences.  Mr. Nagy also said that he is concerned about the "liquid thing."  He said that in his experience, when dealing with liquid, living documents, they grow.  He said that the Township needs hard numbers for the cost of the new building and for the cost to renovate the current site since most of the buildings there need to be torn down.  The $3.2 million is probably not realistic.
    • Rick Petro - Assistant Executive Director of the Vista Estates Homeowners Association - said that the 242 residents are against it at the proposed location.  He thought that all other resources and locations should be exhausted first.  He added that the $3.2 million is excessive and that the bells and whistles should be cut to bring the cost down.  Howell explained that it is difficult for a municipality to acquire land because it must be purchased at the price of its highest and best use.  The Township is competing with developers for land.  Mr. Petro said that the land next to MetEd (on Meco) is up for "short sale."  Howell said that that land is Towne Center 2 and is owned by Mr. Zawarski.  Mr. Petro suggested that they research it.  He added that he is strongly opposed to the proposed location for all the obvious reasons as well as because there will be increased truck traffic on Richmond Road.

Howell said that the process is just beginning tonight and that there will be other opportunities for public comment and contribution.  He added that the Planning Commission will also be involved in the plan approval process.  There will be hearings and workshops.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Proposed Public Works Garage - Public Meeting May 21 at 6:30 PM

The Public Works Committee is scheduled to present the four 5-year DPW plans to the Board of Supervisors (BoS) and the general public on May 21st at 6:30 PM in the Municipal Building.  One of the main topics will be a proposed new public works garage. 

For costing purposes, the committee is using a figure of $3.2 million.  And, for a location, the committee favors using 7 or more acres on the east side of the (not yet designed nor developed) 53 acre park at Richmond and Newlins E.  This park abuts the Farmland Protection (FP) District to the north, Riverview Estates to the East and Vista Estates to the south. 

On April 16th, a public hearing was held on the park project.  The hearing was a requirement of the park planning grant application that was due to be submitted the next week.  The Forks Township Youth Sports Organization was represented as were several park land neighbors.  Not everyone liked the new park as a proposed location of the public works garage.  Everyone liked an additional park.

If you want your ideas and opinions known, plan to be there for the 6:30 presentation/meeting.  It will be followed by the regular BoS meeting at 7:30 PM.

Municipal Primary Day is Tuesday!

Registered Republicans - Registered Democrats - This is it.  This is your chance to select the State Judges and Municipal candidates who will appear on the November ballot.  There are no other Primaries this year. 

In November, every registered voter will select from the candidates that you pick on Tuesday.  That's a lot of power.  Don't sit it out.  Vote on Tuesday, May 19th.  The polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

If you are still unsure who will get your votes, please visit the FAC Primary webpage.  All the candidates' names that Forks voters will see on their ballots are listed.  There are links to the LVLWV 2009 Voters Guide as well as links to articles by or about the candidates - and, if they have a website or blog, they are linked.

Again, don't sit it out.  Learn about the candidates and use your power wisely.  November will be here before you know it and then, all registered voters will count on you to have made the best Primary choices for them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 5/7/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Public Comments (non-agenda)  - none

After a mid-meeting interview, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the appointment of attorney Joseph Rizzo to fill the unexpired term of John Castrovinci on the Forks Township Planning Commission.  Mr. Rizzo has been a Forks resident for the last nine years.  He is is a practicing attorney in PA, NJ, and NY.  His specialty is construction law.  He wishes to use his skills to serve the community - on the Planning Commission.

The Board learned that Suburban EMS is moving its ambulance from the firehouse to its new location, in the Faith Lutheran Church's newly acquired (former) Forks EMS building.  The move could happen as early as the middle of next week.

And, the proposed new public works garage (and the five-year DPW plans are to be presented to the Public Works Committee at its 7:30 AM meeting on May 12th and again to the Finance and Administration Committee at 5 PM on May 13th.  These meetings are open to the public.  A public workshop - to review the proposed garage and the five year plans - is scheduled for 6:30 PM on May 21st (before the regular BoS meeting).

Supervisor Comments

  • Supervisor Nicholas - said that Boy Scout Thomas Marino is going for Eagle Scout status and as his project he would like to fix-up the old slab where the Paxinosa Inn was once located and put in a picnic table and a small pavilion.  Howell said that the hotel slab is privately owned.  He said that there is an old pavilion (with a concrete slab) in Gollub Park.  Nicholas said that she will meet with Marino and visit the site to find out exactly where he is considering.  Howell suggested that DPW Director Roberts go along as well.

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 $8,327,748. 

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 May 19th at 8 AM. 

Howell added that the former Forks EMS garage and land have been sold to Faith Lutheran Church and that a one year renewable term lease has been signed between the church and Suburban EMS.  Suburban will clear leased area of all the non-essential equipment, Suburban will bring in communications equipment and begin using the building.  That may be as early as the middle of next week.

Deputy Chief of Forks Fire, Chuck Chapman (corrected 5/16/09) announced the First Annual Fire Department Golf Tournament to be held at The Club at Morgan Hill on May 15.  There is an 9 AM shotgun start and breakfast, lunch and the use of a cart are included in the $85 registration fee.  There will be prizes.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that there has been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  However, some work has been done in the interim on the proposed new public works garage.  The next meeting is May 12th at 7:30 AM when Township Manager Schnaedter and DPW Director Roberts will make a formal presentation of the proposed public works facility.

Schnaedter said that he and Roberts will be reviewing three of the five year plans (already before the Board) and the plans' capital projects.  They will review the 2002 Feasibility Study as it "pertains to a public works facility," the proposed locations of the garage, bond rates "for refinancing our current municipal facilities," and a sketch plan.  They will do another presentation for the Finance and Administration Committee on May 13th at 5 PM.  Chuss added that the plan will then be to go out for bid for an architectural design.  Schnaedter said that that would be at the next BoS meeting unless there are some objections.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that there has been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  The next is scheduled for 6 PM on Monday (May 11th). 

Nicholas said that she met with CMX a few weeks ago about the amphitheater.  She will get sketch plans of a less costly bandshell for review by the Board.

Chuss asked about the grant status (for the amphitheater).  Schnaedter said that the Township's 2009 appropriations grant was turned down and that the amphitheater was a "long shot."  Congressman Dent is looking for economic opportunities and the bandshell was not viewed as such.  The grant application for 2010 is for the public works facility - another long shot but the plan will include energy saving items.

  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - reported that the committee's next meeting is May 11th at 5 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is next Wednesday (May 13th) at 5 PM.  The public works proposals will be presented by Schnaedter and Roberts.  Howell noted that between the Finance and Administration and the Public Works Committee meetings almost all of the Supervisors (including the Treasurer) will have had an opportunity to hear the proposals.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that his report covered the proposed public works facility and it was discussed earlier in the meeting.  Nicholas asked that the Supervisors be given the plans for the garage before the meeting.  Schnaedter said that they are rough sketches and added that he has been given a tour of the new facility in Williams Township and that the Williams Township Manager is available to give a tour to any Supervisors who may want to see the facility.  Schnaedter asked that they let him know if they would like to go.

Chuss said that according the minutes of the last meeting, a 6:30 workshop (before the May 21st meeting) was scheduled to go over the four 5-year DPW plans - public works, parks, sewer, and facilities.  He suggested that it may not be necessary since it is being presented to two committees and can be reviewed by the Board during the regular meeting.  Chuss said that he is looking for approval of the plans at the first meeting in June.

Howell said that "the public works project is very important to the community, it's got a high price tag..." and that it is appropriate to have the scheduled workshop.  It gives members of the community an opportunity to ask questions.  The process for approval can occur within a reasonable time after that.  Since what will be discussed is very serious, "a period of public comment and information is necessary."  Howell added that the workshop has already been advertised.

Engineer's Report - Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.


Police Department Ductwork Remediation Bids – Rejection of all bids (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that this action on the ductwork was tabled at the April 16th meeting.  The bid package was prepared by Cornerstone Consulting Engineers & Architectural, Inc. of Allentown.  Mark Metzgar is a principal there.  There was a bid tabulation sheet. 

A total of eight companies submitted bids ranging from $8,640 to $23,550.  Mr. Metzgar reviewed the bids and found a lot of defects in them.  Seven of the eight bidders failed to provide proof of acceptable waste disposal methods and other shortcomings. 

Metzgar recommended awarding the bid to the #3 bidder. 

Kline said that if seven out of eight bidders fell short in two different ways that there was something amiss in the communication of what needed to be included in the bid.  He said that basically the project is just cleaning out the dust and mold that is in the ductwork and the material can just be "thrown in the waste bin."  There is no necessity for hazardous waste disposal.

Kline recommended rejecting all the bids and since two were under $10,000, the Township can elect to solicit telephone bids.  The law says that at least three bids are required by this method.  He recommended that as second step, Roberts should solicit three telephone bids.  The contract can then be awarded at the next meeting. 

Howell asked how many bid packages sent by Cornerstone are still out on other projects.  He said that this is the second time that they have failed "to adequately describe the work."  Howell said that he would like the Finance and Administration Committee to look at the "whole bid process" and the possible centralization of it in order to "avoid screw-ups" in the future.

Roberts said that the old style ductwork needs to be removed to be cleaned.  Also, quite a bit of it needs replacement.

Nicholas asked how much was paid to Cornerstone to make the bid package.  Howell said that he doesn't think the Township knows what the bid process costs and that is why he thinks it should be reviewed "to get a handle on who is going to do the bidding; who is going to manage the process."

The motion to reject all bids was passed 5:1. 

Kline noted that everyone should be treated equally and be bidding on the same thing. 

The second motion to have Roberts solicit "telephonic" bids for the cleaning and remediation of the Police Department ductwork and to report back to the Board passed 5:0.


Henningsen Cold Storage / Land Development Plan – Final (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - Weis said that the Board has seen this plan earlier - when it was before them for Conditional Use.

Project Engineer Steve Pany reviewed the building phases and size.  Phase one will be a 157,000 square feet building (including 9,000 square feet of office) with 21 loading docks and parking space for 21 trailers.  There will be additional parking for 65 cars.  Approximately 30 employees are planned for phase one.  At full build out, there will be 90 employees and 92 parking spaces.

Phase two will double the building size and phase three will bring the total building size to 450,000 (plus) square feet of refrigerated warehouse.  It is to be rail served. 

Pany showed the details of the site's stormwater management; There will be infiltration beds and infiltration basins around the site.  There will be buffer landscaping with evergreens on the Braden side and evergreens on the berm along Kesslersville.  The Kesslersville swale is between the road and the rail line.

Pany said that Henningsen agrees to all the Keystone Engineering review letter items.  The emergency roadway to Kesslersville from the cul de sac will be maintained by the owner of lot 17.  Originally, the owner of lot 1 was to maintain it.

Kline said that Petrucci now indicates that Weyerhaeuser (the company on lot 17) is responsible to maintain the emergency access road.  Kline recommended getting a signed agreement for that responsibility and in fact, he sent a draft agreement to Weyerhaeuser but has not yet heard back from them. 

Before the motion and vote, there was discussion of the brightness of the lights at Weyerhaeuser (lot 17) and it was recommended that the Henningsen lights be aimed down.  Weis said that he contacted Weyerhaeuser and that they have agreed to shield the lights on their building.  He took readings and the light brightness is within the zoning requirements.  According to Pany, Weyerhaeuser needs the bright lights for its outside night shift workers.

The vote was 5:0 to approve the final plan based in the engineer's review letter and the condition that lot 17 will maintain the emergency access road.

Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority Update (Henning Holmgaard, Liaison to EAJSA) - Holmgaard reported that on any given day the sewer plant processes 1 million extra gallons.  This extra is in the sewer system but is of unknown origin.  Last August a study was instituted by the six member municipalities - Easton, Forks, Palmer, West Easton, Tatamy, and Wilson - to learn where the extra flow originates.  

There was no rain in August 2008 so the study was undertaken in March and April of 2009.  It was originally to be funded by the EAJSA members.  However, Easton wanted it funded as a capital project by the Authority and "that was the only way we could get it done.  Easton decided not to participate (in the second round).

Some preliminary results have been given to Township Engineer Hay.  Holmgaard said that Forks will have some problems because of the old clay pipes from the late 1960s and early 1970s in the Old Mill and Heather Lane area.  He recommended that when the study is completed that Forks fix its problems. 

Holmgaard also recommended that Forks reinstall meters in the five old meter pits (coming out of Forks).  The meters will cost $50,000 a piece to retrofit and reactivate.  "...the price of this stuff is going sky high."  The Delaware River Basin Commission has recommended a $30 million (low end price) retrofit to the sewage treatment plant.

Holmgaard said, "We better be very sure that whatever we pay is what we are sending down there and as long as we are sending rainwater and all that stuff, we really don't have a leg to stand on."

Hay said that the Township did the first round of the study last year and that the TV camera found many problems.  Currently the Township is working its way through the system to correct those problems.  Right now the Township's sewer plant charges are prorated based on water meter readings.  With outflow meters, it could be measured on actual flow.  He said that Holmgaard is right that Forks could save money over the life of it.  Holmgaard said that right now we are paying for 200,000 gallons a day.

Nicholas asked, "How can Easton say they are not going to do it?"  Holmgaard replied that Easton has six votes on the board.  He added that Supervisors should come to a meeting - to hear him screaming about it.  The meetings are every third Monday at 6 PM.  The next is on May 18th.  It will be over by 7 o'clock "because everybody needs to go home and eat dinner."

Howell asked, "Didn't the DRBC Effluent Quality Control" raise the standards of sewerage systems?  Holmgaard replied that the output from the plant passes through copper and that is very bad.  The Authority has voted to go along with the new regulations but the regulations have not been formalized yet.

Holmgaard said that the small plant in Milford, NJ is going to spend $6 million on upgrades - they have only 700 customers.  "You can figure out what that's going to cost," Holmgaard said, and added that it is "deadly serious that we do this."

Finance Manager Farley said that Forks has only one vote on the Authority but Forks contributes 16% of the total plant costs.  When the relationship started, Forks population was much smaller.  He offered that it is a "representative government" issue.  Easton has six of the votes on a Board of twelve.

Holmgaard said that Easton operates the plant.  It is leased to the Sewer Authority.  It costs $4 million a year to do the treatment and run the plant.

Planning Commission Update (Dean Turner, PC Chairman) - Turner began his report by thanking Virginia Jackson, Sue Kocsis (candidate for Elected Auditor), and John Ackerman for their help gathering information and in discussions with the Planning Commission (PC).  He said that the PC was asked by the BoS to discuss and give an opinion on moving forward with an open space ballot referendum - one that would be funded by increased taxes.

The PC began discussions, reviewed materials provided to them, and decided to have discussions with large property owners.  It "reached out" through Ms. Kocsis, a farmland owner, to start the process.  She and John Ackerman produced a map of the Township showing the lands owned by KMRD (either under contract or planned for sale) outlined in red, preserved land (in the northern portion of the Township) in green, and land being farmed (and that the owners want to keep in farming) in orange.  Turner apologized that he didn't have the chart with him.  It is being scanned by Planner Carl Dicker to make copies for the PC.  Copies also will be forwarded to the BoS.

Many of the owners of the land outlined in orange, already have made private arrangements, such as trusts, to keep their land in farming.  Overwhelmingly these farmland owners are not interested in any kind of Township involvement and "nobody wants taxes raised."

The PC recommended to the Board that it not go forward with a referendum.  However, Turner reported, the PC does recommend that the Board "form an exploratory committee made up of independent members of the community" to look at other options for creative funding (for farmland preservation.)    Turner said that the PC "strongly recommends" that this committee look at rezoning land along Uhler Road into EC land (Employment Center).  He said that would open the land up to industrial use.  The PC also urges that the Township help support the effort for a Route 33 interchange at Tatamy which would help the industrial area traffic flow.

Chuss commented that some of the farmers he has talked to are still interested in preserving farmland.  Turner said that those who are interested in preserving their land (the Kline and Brown properties) are preserving their land.  Others are just interested in maintaining their farms and farming.  The committee recommendations (for creative funding) would be in addition to those suggested in the draft Comprehensive Plan.

As to the zoning change recommendation, Turner said that the committee should look at it and recommend which lands to change.  The objective would be to prevent more housing in that area of the FP (Farmland Protection). 

Turner offered that the PC has discussed the possibilities of having solar and wind farms in the FP.  This would keep houses out and the land preserved.

Howell asked, that "assuming farmers do not want Township involvement in their lives and the management of their property," why raise money through alternate means such as grants?  He asked, too, that if the land will not be preserved in the traditional way by purchasing development rights, what would the money be for?  Turner said that the farmers with KMRD contracts have farms that are intended for sale and if KMRD goes away, that 500 acres of farmland would be available for sale.   At $100,000 an acre, that would be $50 million.  Turner noted the Township's budget is much less than that.

Howell said that there is land in Forks being farmed by farmers from other towns.  The land is owned by people who want to keep their land in agriculture.  He suggested that it would be nice if some of the required open space in developments abutted farmland, effectively doubling up the open space.

Howell thanked Turner for his report and for all the work that went into it.  He suggested that there is more fact finding to do and that perhaps joint workshops would be a good place for more discussion.  He thought that revisiting some of the farmers would be beneficial as well to help figure out "what we are doing." 

Turner offered that other things being discussed by the PC include putting together solar and wind energy ordinances, historical ordinances to help preserve some of the Township's remaining structures, updating the master plan to connect the recreation paths, a systematic review of the Town Center District, water quality as it relates to existing wells and water supplies, and once the Comprehensive Plan is approved, the PC will look at the SALDO and zoning.

Off topic, Turner asked the Board for a courtesy copy of the plans for the proposed new public works garage.  He said that the MPC does not require PC review of Township projects but in the past, courtesy copies have been provided for PC review.  Schnaedter said that PC input will be wanted and as soon as a site is selected, the PC will be included.

Interview Planning Commission Candidate (C. David Howell, Chairman) - Attorney Joseph Rizzo, the sole applicant for the Planning Commission unexpired term vacancy was interviewed at this point in the meeting instead of in a 7 PM workshop at the beginning because, although the workshop was scheduled, no one confirmed with Mr. Rizzo that he could be available at the earlier time.  He could not.  He was giving a final exam to his history students at Raritan Valley Community College.

Mr. Rizzo has been a Forks resident for the last nine years and has watched with intense interest the immense growth in our town and especially the competing interests involving residential property, commercial property, farmland, and land preservation. 

Mr. Rizzo is the father of two small children and is a practicing attorney in PA, NJ, and NY.  His specialty is construction law.  He wishes to use his skills to serve the community - on the Planning Commission.

Mr. Rizzo is also a part-time history teacher at Raritan Valley Community College.  He says he does that "for fun."  He will be getting yet another degree (this December) from East Stroudsburg University - a Masters in Political Science.  He has finished his course work and is finalizing his thesis.

He said that most of his legal work is in New Jersey and he foresees a very low probability of conflicts.  Mr. Rizzo said that he would have no problem recusing himself if conflicts do arise.

Appointment to the Planning Commission (C. David Howell, Chairman) - In a 5:0 vote, Forks resident, attorney Joseph Rizzo was appointed to fill the unexpired term of John Castrovinci on the Forks Planning Commission.  The motion was made by Egolf and seconded by Nicholas.

Executive Session - The session was for a litigation matter.  After the session, the Supervisors voted 4:1 with Egolf casting the nay, to accept the settlement reached between the Northampton County Real Estate Tax Assessor's Office and International Women's Apparel, Inc (Uhler Road).  The company filed an appeal of its 2009 RE taxes.  The agreed to settlement will reduce Forks' tax revenues by $1,200 per year.   

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, May 03, 2009

The Primary is only two weeks away

May 19th is the big day.  The polls open at 7 AM and close at 8 PM.  There are four voting locations in Forks. Vote-button If you are not sure where your polling place is, check this PA Department of State polling place locator

If you have not quite made up your mind about who gets your precious votes, check the LVLWV Voter's Guide and the F.A.C. 2009 Primary webpage.  Also, the Express Times has an online voter's guide

Of the three sources, only the F.A.C. 2009 Primary page is Forks-centric.  Not only are your specific candidates for State and local judgeships listed, you will find candidates for Easton Area School Board Region 3, Forks Supervisor, Tax Collector, Elected Auditor, Constable, Judge of Election, Inspector of Election, County Executive, and County Council.  Candidate websites/blogs are linked.  Articles about the candidates and their messages to Forks voters are there as well.

F.A.C. has tried to make this as complete a Forks voter resource as possible.  It should eliminate some of the guesswork at the polling place and make you the best informed voters out there!

Don't dawdle, there is much to explore on the F.A.C. 2009 Primary page.  The countdown clock is ticking.