At the Penn Forest Township supervisors' meeting Monday evening, resident Barbara Smith told board members she had concerns about the park being constructed on Route 903, across from Bear Creek Lake.
"I'm not opposed to the park, but I am a concerned taxpayer," said Smith. "I do not agree with the board's statement last month that the township has an obligation to provide recreation. There is plenty of recreation in this area. With no one building new homes, and people losing their homes, where is the money to maintain this park going to come from."
Supervisor Alan Katz fielded the questions, stating that he had recently contacted Lehighton Borough and questioned them on what their expenses had been over the past few years to maintain the six parks in the borough.
"Lehighton has six parks, one of which has a swimming pool," said Katz. "The cost of maintaining their parks was $32,562 in 2012. The cost to upkeep the park on 903 should be minimal.
"The cost will be in completing the park. But to stop now the township would have to pay the Jim Thorpe School District $750,000 for the property, repay the DCNR grant of $509,000 and the DCED grant of $80,000 and return the land to its original condition," Katz explained.
At the close of public comment, Chairwomen Christine Fazio asked engineer Gregg Pavlick of Barry Isett Associates (BIA) to inform the board of the outcome of a meeting with DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) held in Harrisburg on July 22. Pavlick attended the meeting with township supervisor Paul Montemuro.
There were a number of critical items that came out of that meeting. Of most concern to the board was that according to Alex Tatanish of the DCNR none of the work done to date at the park is eligible for reimbursement under the DCNR grant.
According to Pavlick, some of the work being completed in the PennDOT right-of-way will be covered by the DCED grant.
As a result of the meeting, the township will be sending a letter to DCNR indicating that BIA engineer Bob Cox will be the project coordinator for the park project. Katz made a motion that Cox was to be the only point of contact on behalf of the township and that all correspondence was to go through Cox. The motion passed.
Pavlick went on to state that all drawings, designs and plans need to be signed and sealed by a licensed engineer and submitted to DCNR for approval before they can be sent out for bid.
"Tatanish pointed out that the project must be substantially completed by June 30, 2014," said Pavlick. "We asked if we could possibly put the project out for bids while we were awaiting DCNR's approvals providing, of course, that any changes or addendums made by DCNR would be incorporated into the final proposal. Tatanish said he would work with the township if this was the way they chose to proceed."
Cox addressed the board further on the matter of the park. Knowing that there are concerns about completing everything that was within the original Phase I within budget, Cox came up four alternatives within Phase I for bidding purposes.
"Phase I originally included the storm water control and retention areas, parking, utilities, a playground, multiple athletic fields, concession stand and walking trail," explained Cox.
Under his revised plan the township will request bids with alternative options. The first option will be the minimum to meet the requirements of the grant, which will include the storm water control and retention areas, parking, utilities, three athletic fields and the playground. Alternative two will add on the concession stand, a well and a disposal system. The third alternative will add the first part of the trail and the fourth alternative will add the final part of the trail.
Cox added that future grants will be used for ball fields, tennis courts and additional soccer fields. He also said he hoped that DCNR will approve the basic bid package design by the end of this week.
Other township business discussed included a motion to advertise the Amusement Tax Ordinance so that it can be on the agenda for September.
The supervisors agreed to enter into a one-year contract with Solomon Container Services to provide free recycling service to the township.
Fazio made a motion to adopt a Public Comment Resolution. The content of the resolution was not discussed other than that the resolution requires persons who address the board during public comment be allowed only two minutes.
"We need it to expedite the meeting," stated Fazio.
Katz made a number of motions during the evening, including one to reimburse the Park "Grant" Fund $134,079.83 from the General Fund.
Katz also made a motion to disallow the use of signature stamps by supervisors for the signing of checks.
Supervisor Judith Knappenberger called for discussion, taking exception to the motion, stating that she has a specific disability related to her hands.
"If you are telling me I can't use the stamper, you are telling me I can't fulfill my duties as a supervisor," said Knappenberger. "You are discriminating against me."
"We'll take it up with the handicap people" replied Katz. "It's not an ADA violation; it's a violation of internal control."
After further discussion, Katz agreed to amend the motion to exclude persons with certified disabilities. The motion passed.
Katz also made a motion, which was approved, that no township employee may contact the township solicitor or engineers without the approval of two supervisors. This is to keep down the cost of billable hours.
As a follow-up to a request made last month, Penn Forest Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 has entered into a contract with KME for the purchase of a new tanker. A motion was made and passed to issue a check in the amount of $60,000 from the Rolling Truck Fund.
Motions were made and passed to pay the monthly bills. New this month was an invoice from America Coast to Coast Business Solutions (ACTC), which is now handling the payroll. Since ACTC will be paid directly out of the township account it was suggested by Katz that a separate payroll account be established. A motion was made and passed.