Regular Meeting (agenda)
Four plus hours of meeting resulted in Supervisors voting 4:1 for the public works garage concept produced by Kimmel-Bogrette Architecture. There was much discussion between the Board and residents who own properties near the intended site. For more details, please read Sara Satullo's Express Times article.
On this night, Supervisors also approved a new fire truck purchase, a renewal of the fire coverage contract with Stockertown, and the 2010 budget. There will be no tax increase for Forks property owners in 2010!
Supervisors also learned that developer Gary Strausser has filed yet another lawsuit against the Township and, this time, also against Township Solicitor, Karl Kline, and Board Chairman, David Howell. Strausser alleges that he has been deprived of his constitutional rights - because the Township is enforcing its cash escrow policy and filing deadlines. See Michael Buck, Express Times, and Christopher Baxter, Morning Call for more.
It was also a night of retirements from the Board and from staff. Supervisors Miller and Nicholas were presented with plaques and words of appreciation for their years of service to the Township. Miller served on the Board for 24 years. Nicholas served one term as a Supervisor and before that was on the Zoning Hearing Board (for one plus terms). Township Engineer, Fred Hay/Keystone Engineering, said that Keystone worked for the Township for 13 years.
Miller listed some of his accomplishments including the expansion of the park from 20 acres to over 50 acres, the creation of a park plan (by URDC) that has been followed in the development of the park, the recreation path, the log cabin, and the park arboretum. The arboretum theme is "trees around the world." Miller said that Forks has one of the nicest community parks in the Lehigh Valley.
Nicholas thanked everyone for "tolerating" her for the last six years. She said that the Township has a really good group of employees and that she is leaving the Township in good hands.
Hay said that being associated with Forks Township for the past 13 years has been his (and Keystone's) privilege.
Public Comments (non-agenda) -
- David Hoff, former Forks Supervisor, addressed the Board and spoke to Don Miller's first election 24 years ago. He congratulated Miller for serving for 24 years and said that Miller only got into politics because they (the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association) were convinced that they needed someone to watch out for recreation - and that he did. Hoff said that Miller has served the community well and he thanked him on behalf of "the generations of children and adults yet to come" who will enjoy what he has done in the community.
- Ken Nagy, Forks resident, spoke first to what he referred to as "airport expansion." He said that larger fuel tanks and a larger terminal constitute expansion. Mr. Nagy said that this expansion deals with traffic at Braden and Queen City airports noting that it would be foolish for the Airport Authority to sink money into Braden without a some sort of return. He said that the Airport Authority is really talking about expansion, including increased traffic and night operation. Mr. Nagy said that the property the airport sits on, because of the coming Tatamy/Palmer Route 33 interchange, is going to be worth a heck of a lot of money. He said that Allentown desperately wants the Queen City land for its tax base and that Braden will likely see some transfer of traffic. He said that he "would like to see the community take the land back."
Mr. Nagy also addressed "open space" and asked the BoS to ask Solicitor Kline to write a letter to Northampton County Council saying that they have reneged on the open space contract and that Forks wants its 1/4 point back - so that it can be used for its own projects. The monies paid for open space are now part of the County's general fund. He said that he is aggravated by projects outside of the county receiving funding while County farms sit on the list. Mr. Nagy said that he is disappointed that "you people" did not push harder for the open space committee to do something. He suggested that BoS meeting nights be changed so that some of "you" can attend County meetings (held on the same nights). He said that what is in the newspapers is not what goes on there at all.
- Sandy Hanks, Forks resident, asked the Board if the Township has an ordinance that deals with weight limits on certain roads. In particular, she said that she saw an open type tractor trailer (like a grain truck) turn onto Frost Hollow Road. Chief Dorney said that Frost Hollow is a State road and that if she sees another truck on it of that size she should call Forks police. He said that the department has two officers on day shift who are certified in truck weight limits. Mark Roberts, DPW Director said that there were salt deliveries today and that the truck she saw was one of the delivery trucks.
Mrs. Hanks also asked who is responsible for the care of sidewalks in Riverview Estates? She said that there is a portion of sidewalk missing on Winchester Dr. and there is a utility box in the way. She said people run there at night and someone recently fell. She said that it is a safety issue and should be marked with yellow tape or a saw horse. Howell said that Winchester belongs to the developer and has not yet been dedicated to the Township. Township Engineer Fred Hay said that the completion of the sidewalk is on the punch list for Riverview Recreation Phase 1. It is Strausser property and the improvements must be done by June 2010. Hay added that most of the improvements on the punch list have been completed.
- Jeff Sargent (sic), of Northeast ITS told the Board that his company has submitted drawings and a letter to the Township. They are laying 350-400 miles of fiber (cable) from Ohio through New Jersey. He said that he was at this meeting as a "courtesy call." He said that the letter contains contact information and a brief synopsis of the project. Mr. Sargent said that although this is being done in state rights-of-way, they are contacting all the townships impacted. He said that when they come through an area they place hangers on doors. The hangers have 800 numbers and contact information. This west to east line is now in Mercer County and it will cut through Forks near Bushkill Park Drive and then go east to Easton. There will, at a minimum, be a meeting with PA One Call. They notify all the utilities in the townships. The majority of the line is installed by drilling - it is bored and the fiber is pulled through. Cross-country lines have indicator posts installed but in towns, curbs are marked instead.
- Nancy Walters, Forks resident, urged Supervisors to pursue a more aggressive path for re-cycling. She suggested that Forks consider, in addition to its existing curbside recycling, a recycling center. She offered that Bethlehem's facility is nice and is on a relatively small piece of land. It generates an income stream, part time jobs, and mentoring positions for young people. She thought that the Frost Hollow property (where the current DPW garage is) might be a suitable site. She also encouraged the Board to sponsor e-waste and hazardous waste programs.
Mrs. Walters also said that she is involved with the Kiwanis Club. She asked that, since
we are all aging" that recreation for adults become a focus.
And, she told the Board that the YMCA daycare has created a safety hazard on Old Sullivan Trail. Cars are parked on both sides of the street and parents - "fifty percent of the time on their cell phones" - come "sailing out of there" and cannot see. Howell said that it is a problem and that two SUVs going in opposite directions on the street would probably hit mirrors. He said that the Public Safety Committee is aware of the problem and will discuss the sight line further.
Howell also said that she will be contacted when discussions begin on the second life of the Frost Hollow public works site.
- Supervisor Nicholas said that she attended the Community Days committee meeting last week and learned that Susan and Harry Bennett, current joint chairs of the committee, are moving from Forks to Palmer Township. The bylaws require residency - and happily the Bennetts have offered to help after they move. Neal Fehnel has offered to vice chair the committee. A chairperson is being sought. Howell suggested that he and Township Manager Schnaedter use their association with the Forks Business and Commerce Association to "put some muscle on the project" - but citizen participation is needed as well. Susan Bennett said that the Forks Township Community Days now has non-profit status and has applied for grants - some businesses, like Crayola, require a list of officers. On that application she wrote "to be announced" for president, for vice president she wrote Neal Fehnel, for secretary, Dan Whiting (sic), and for treasurer there is no one. At the moment, the committee has an impressive steering committee. She said that the time to act is now since letters seeking funds go out in March. Mrs. Bennett suggested that Nicholas become president of the group since she has been involved since its inception. Howell expressed his appreciation of the work that the Bennetts have done every year.
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 $7,739,994.
Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public - see the official Township calendar for dates and times)
- Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said that this was his last year as chairman of the committee. Next year, Supervisor Egolf will be the chairman and the 2010 meeting times will be set at the Re-Org meeting on January 4th. The main topic at this past week's meeting was the fire and vehicle rescue assistance agreement with the Borough of Stockertown. It is on tonight's agenda.
- Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee met on December 8th and reviewed the DPW garage site plans, any concerns about it, and any potential cost savings. Also under review was the Meadow Lane property issue. Chuss said that this was his last meeting as chairman of the committee and that next year Howell will hold that position. He said that this has been a good year and thanked everyone for their help and support.
- Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that, with the help of Supervisor Nicholas, this was an extremely successful year. Because the meeting time was changed to evening, the committee met almost every month with the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association. Among the accomplishments in 2009 was the tot lot and basketball court a Penn's Ridge, replacement of the outdoor exercise equipment in the park, the park tennis and basketball courts were reconditioned, plans were begun for the amphitheater, the five acre parcel (behind the community center) was graded and seeded, and rest rooms were installed at Braden and Lafayette fields. Egolf said that the committee had a very successful meeting last Monday. Next year, Supervisor Rogers will be chair and assistant chair will be Supervisor Billings. The Recreation Board priority list, part of its five year plan, has top priority.
- Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the last meeting was cancelled and that in January, Chuss will chair the committee and Howell will be assistant chairman.
- Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee met on December 9 and reviewed the monthly finances. She said that they Township did rather well and is $700,000 "up." Of that, $270,000 will go to the carryover accrual. There should be $500,000 in total carryover for bills at the beginning of the year. The committee also reviewed agenda procedures, community center rentals and rates, the police server, evaluation forms, a fire truck, the public works garage, goal setting, the police retirement plan, and wrestling building rentals.
Howell introduced the new Supervisors, Michele Rogers and David Billings. Rogers will be chairing the Parks & Recreation Committee and Billings will head the Finance & Administration Committee.
Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that his written report was before the Board and unless the Board had questions, he had no additional comments. Howell commented that Forks has never had such well written and organized manager's reports.
Engineer's Report - Fred Hay - agenda items only.
Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that Gary Strausser has filed another lawsuit against the Township and this time also against Township Solicitor Kline and Supervisor Chairman Howell claiming that his civil rights have been violated by the enforcement of the Township's cash escrow requirements and plan filing deadlines - the same rules that apply to all developers. Kline said that Mr. Strausser has signed contracts agreeing to the cash escrow requirements and now he says that they deprive him of his constitutional rights. Kline offered that the suit has no merit whatsoever and that it is an effort to intimidate and bully the Township. "The Township has not and will not give in to such tactics," said Kline. All developers must "abide the rules specified by State law."
Kline also said that he heard from Alfero Construction's owner who wanted to know why their land development plan was rejected. The Alfero plan was rejected by the BoS at its December 3rd meeting because there was no activity and the engineer's comments (and letter) were ignored. If the Township does not act within a certain amount of time, a plan can be deemed approved. And, the Board had to act in order to avoid a deemed approval. The developer did not show up at the Planning Commission (PC) meeting so the PC recommended rejection. The developer did not show up at the BoS meeting either. Kline said that Alfero's engineer apparently did not advise him of the correspondence and meeting dates. Alfero asked the Board's consideration and told Kline that he plans to appear before the Board at the January 4 meeting.
Chuss questioned having a regular business meeting after the January 4th Re-Org meeting and was reminded that if one wasn't held then, it would have to be held on the first Thursday - January 7th - and that the BoS customarily has the regular meeting following the Re-Org meeting.
Final Adoption of 2010 Budget (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Howell remarked that the budget process was an arduous task led by (Finance Manager) Farley and Schnaedter, who kept the process on schedule, met with staff, met with the board, and complied with statute requirements.
Farley said that the process began in October with (open to the public) work sessions with department heads. It continued with the first draft submission and its posting on the Township website. On November 19th the draft was tentatively adopted by the Board. It was available for public view on both the website and at the Township office.
Revenues are projected at $7.483 million against (projected) expenses of $7.386 million. The $96,000 surplus will be used to build the yearend carryover. The purpose of the carryover is to fund the first few months of the year. There is no revenue stream in the first few months of the year - until the tax bills are mailed out and payments are received.
Farley said that the goal is to hold the line on expenses and look for the most frugal ways to do business while keeping services where they are now. Egolf made the motion to accept the 2010 budget, Chuss seconded, and the vote was 5:0. Howell noted that taxes are not being raised and it looks like the Township is in pretty good shape.
Bethlehem Army Reserve Center (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that the engineer's letter from December 4th and the Army Reserve land development plan, to join two lots, were in the BoS packets.
Zoning Officer Weis said that the lot line adjustment is part of the approval for the land development. Chuss said that he thought the Board was to see a presentation of the project.
A representative of the US Army Corps of Engineers was there to explain the plan and why the Army Reserve is leaving its Bethlehem facility for a new home in Forks - it is because of BRAC, Base Realignment And Closure. The new site is composed of lots 15 & 16 in Fort James III - on the same side of Braden Boulevard as Weyerhaeuser and just north of it. It will be home to a 39,000 square foot two story training facility - for 200 reservists, a maintenance facility for military equipment, and unheated storage.
Chuss said that a presentation was given to the Planning Commission (PC) and that the PC recommended (to the Board) that the Board approve the plan. However, the Board gives final approval and it likes to know what it is approving. The same presentation would help. Howell agreed and said that the Board at least deserves the same presentation. Nicholas said that she's never had someone come in and say that this is what they want and give no presentation. She added that the PC is an advisory board only.
Egolf said that he believes the developer (the Army Corps) should follow the usual procedures and that the BoS should have a full presentation similar to, or the same as, the one given to the PC. The meeting will be advertised and anyone in the community who wants to see the plans will be aware that the meeting is scheduled.
Chuss asked if there will be any time implications. Kline said that the BoS at the last meeting indicated that time was running out and asked the Army to give a time extension. Zoning Officer Weis contacted Michael Baker, Jr. Inc. and got a letter dated 12/7 granting a 30 day time extension and asking that the agenda item be tabled until the meeting of 12/17. Kline said that there may be a problem if this goes past January 11th (12/11 letter date confirmed by Weis) without another time extension.
Kline advised staff to be sure the item is on the January 4th BoS agenda and he told the Army representatives to be certain that someone be at that meeting to discuss the land development and the intended uses. The Board must act on the plan and the lot consolidation at that meeting.
Egolf made a motion to postpone the Bethlehem Army Reserve Center Land Development to the January 4th meeting to review all plans and consider granting approval. Miller seconded and the vote was 5:0.
01. Public Works Facility Presentation / Approval – Kimmel Bogrette (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - The two hour and 24 minute public works garage discussion was described by Sara Satullo in her Express Times article. Please read it for an accurate summary. FAC will try, at a later date, to post a short version of the discussion to augment the newspaper piece.
Added 12/28/2009: On December 28th, the Morning Call published Christopher Baxter's thorough article and companion summary piece on the cost of building green.
02. Board Agenda Policy (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - A single motion was made by Egolf to table agenda items 2, 3, and 7 until the January 17th BoS meeting. The vote was 5:0.
03. 2010 Goal Setting Session (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - A single motion was made by Egolf to table agenda items 2, 3, and 7 until the January 17th BoS meeting. The vote was 5:0.
04. Fire Truck Purchase / PEMA Loan (Jim Farley, Finance Manager / Bryan Weis, Fire Chief) - Farley explained that the fire truck purchase is part of the Fire Department's 25 year plan. The net cost of the truck is $544,753. So far $106,824 has been accrued. The fire capital purchase allowance for 2009 is $200,000 and in 2010 it is $100,000. In addition, the Fire Company will apply for a PEMA loan of $100,000. The remaining $38,000 will come from the Board's "discretionary fund." Currently that fund has a balance of $561,000.
Fire Chief Bryan Weis explained that this is for an engine pumper truck to replace the 1983 one. The new engine will meet all current safety standards, be more multi-functional, and have greater flexibility. The next vehicle scheduled for replacement is in five years.
Howell asked Kline if the Township must apply for the PEMA loan. Kline said that PEMA takes the position that the Township must guarantee the payment of the debt, therefore the Township will have debt.
Nicholas said that she was told at a Finance & Administration Committee meeting that the engine price would not exceed $500,000 and that no money would be coming from the discretionary fund. Weis said that that was a four year old number and the EPA changes have upped the cost of vehicles. Farley said that the figures he was working with at the committee meetings were from the 25 year plan which was created about seven years ago.
Nicholas said that she thinks the 25 year plan should be updated. Farley agreed and said that the plan was developed when the Township was experiencing significant growth and that is not the case now.
Howell offered that there is no question that the new fire truck is needed. Nicholas made the motion to purchase, Chuss seconded, and the vote was 5:0.
05. Police Server Replacement – EZ Micro (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that the police department server was installed in 2006. It was an emergency installation at the time and it is now time to change it. The replacement unit will put the department into a terminal/server environment. It can stand alone or connect into a network. The current server does not work with the laptops in the patrol cars.
Approval tonight will mean placing the new server in service in January.
Nicholas made the motion to purchase the server at $8,360. The vote was 5:0.
06. Fire and Vehicle Rescue Assistance Agreement with the Borough of Stockertown (Bryan Weis, Fire Chief) - Howell said that Stockertown is asking for a definite term of five years so that it can budget for fire coverage.
Chief Weis said that the relationship with Stockertown has been good and that the revenues earned exceed expenses. He suggested adding a sentence to the terms for review and adjustment for economic conditions. Nicholas agreed and said, "A five year contract locked in at a certain price is way too long."
Kline said that Stockertown wants assurance that the contract is firm for five years but if the Board says it is going to be periodically reviewed for costs, then the contract is totally "open ended" for the future. The Board would consider using the CPI (Consumer Price Index) if Stockertown will agree to it.
Egolf suggested lowering the number of years. Weis said that there is language in the agreement that either party can terminate it with 60 days notice.
Nicholas said that the current contract is year to year and if Forks notifies Stockertown by a prescribed deadline of what the new rate will be so that they can budget, it can stay year to year.
Chuss made a motion for a three year contract extension. Egolf seconded and the motion passed 5:0.
07. Comprehensive Plan (tabled previous meeting) (Dean Turner, Planning Commission) - A single motion was made by Egolf to table agenda items 2, 3, and 7 until the January 17th BoS meeting. The vote was 5:0.
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.