Penn Forest Township's board of supervisors met Monday morning to discuss matters that have long been under way. The public meeting began 30 minutes later than advertised, because the board held an executive session regarding recycling. Only small bits of information could be heard through the conference room door and they refused to discuss the matter until they could present it at an official meeting.
Supervisor Alan Katz was absent and could not be reached.
When the township meeting began, the discussion immediately jumped ahead in the agenda to address the subject of the new turnpike exchange. In 2010, the completion of the, E-Z pass only, Route 903 turnpike interchange was projected to be finished in the fall of 2014. According to the PA Turnpike website, this projection remains the same, but Chairman and road master Paul Montemuro addressed his concern regarding the absence of a changing arrow light at the new exchange.
"I think we need to change that light from green to an arrow and pay to have the whole thing reprogrammed," Montemuro said before making a motion to hire William Conrad, a specialist in traffic signals from Signal Services in West Chester, and having him attend a meeting with him, PennDOT, the PA Turnpike, and state Rep. Doyle Heffley. Conrad had been providing free advice to the township and Montemuro hoped he could offer insight on the matter and help to convince PennDOT and the turnpike to allow the change.
The motion passed unanimously. The meeting will take place in Heffley's office at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 22.
"This is one of our major battles because it is a lot of money," Montemuro commented after the vote. "I would rather have someone knowledgeable handling the matter … which is why I wanted to hire this guy (Conrad) to come with me to Harrisburg this Friday and help me present the issue."
Following Montemuro's comments, he mentioned that the plan for the new park on Route 903 near Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 had received all of its approvals, and he was planning a meeting to develop a prep plan with the soil conservationists from the PA DEP.
Montemuro made note of the fact that the road would need to be widened to allow for people to safely turn into the park or cross lanes while leaving. He mentioned that he would be searching online for estimates from various contractors in an attempt to find the best price.
The focus changed quickly toward financial matters. In response to complaints by his fellow supervisors, who were spending money out of their own pockets to purchase work supplies, Montemuro motioned to increase petty cash funds to $300 dollars to cover the cost of supplies. He also proposed an additional motion to make Mary Ann Llewelyn, the board secretary, the new petty cash custodian. Both motions passed unanimously. With the passing of the motions Montemuro agreed to look into acquiring a credit card for the board.
Montemuro made a motion to approve the payment of $1,490.46 to Hershey Lodge to cover conference attendance of all the supervisors and the secretary-treasurer, which passed unanimously. He then motioned to approve the past-due quarterly unemployment compensation payment to the PA Department of Revenue and the Pennsylvania State Association for Township Supervisors Unemployment Compensation group trust fund. This bill amounted to a total of $1,246.94. The motion passed with only Supervisor Christine Fazio voting no for reasons she was remiss to address.
Montemuro proposed yet another motion to ratify the resolution to 2013-02 traffic light installation at Penn Forest Township to change the type of meeting from a workshop to a special meeting/workshop to further address the matter.
Montemuro continued to propose additional motions. The first motion, which passed with only Fazio voting "no," added dental and eye coverage to the full-time township employee health insurance coverage.
The second motion proposed that the township re-hire Carole Matthews as the full-time assistant secretary starting at $9 an hour. Before voting Fazio addressed her concern to Montemuro.
"We had already moved that she has to complete her probation period before she starts to receive benefits, someone had explained to me that her job description will change, how can her probation period end after 90 days if her job description changes?" Fazio asked.
Montemuro responded with an explanation that Matthews's job description would change after her probation period ended, and it would then be assessed whether or not she would end her probation period. The motion passed with only Fazio voting "no."
The board unanimously passed Montemuro's resolution to appoint retired school teacher, Fred Hoppes and Vietnam War veteran, Walter Shultz to the zoning hearing board in order to fill seats and ensure that any decisions made by the zoning hearing board would not be disposed of as a result of lacking board members.
Montemuro was clear that he had picked two people from both sides of the turnpike, and with different backgrounds, to ensure a fair and balanced zoning hearing board.
Montemuro made his final motion to advertise for next month's meeting. The motion passed unanimously.
Focus shifted again toward Supervisor Warren Reiner as he addressed the next topic on the agenda. He had reviewed the township's options regarding the purchase of a new backhoe.
Until now the township had been working with an outdated and overused farm tractor for most of its road maintenance and projects.
"What we need is a commercial piece of equipment to dig trenches, put in piping, and do all the things that our overstressed farm tractor is doing right now," Reiner told the board.
Reiner found the best price of $93,410 for a 2012 John Deere heavy-duty backhoe with a three-year warranty through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's cooperative purchasing program, Co-star. Reiner motioned make the purchase through Co-star. The board unanimously passed the motion to purchase the backhoe through this program, which saved an estimated $59,000. The new backhoe should arrive within three weeks.
Fazio proposed a discussion to amend the employee handbook to require that vacation days be taken within 90 days. This discussion was put on the agenda for the next meeting.