Penn Forest supervisors adopt new employee policies
JUDY DOLGOS-KRAMER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Penn Forest Township Supervisor Paul Montemuro, chairman, left, swears in Harold Romig Jr. as the newest member of the Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company No. 2 fire police.
Penn Forest supervisors Alan Katz and Christine Fazio made a series of motions at Monday night's meeting regarding the adoption of several new employee policies to be added to the township's employee handbook.
The first motion made by Katz was to direct the current township secretary/treasurer, Mary Ann Lewellyn, to run an advertisement for a search for a new secretary/treasurer for the township.
"We discussed a number of personnel issues in the executive session and the first thing the board discussed was a search for a new municipal secretary/treasurer," said Katz who again attended the meeting via conference call.
The motion to replace Lewellyn was not unanimous. Supervisor Judith Knappenburger voted no.
There were a number of employee policies adopted. The new policies included how the township would handle jury duty and bereavement leave for full and part-time employees.
A policy regarding attendance during inclement weather was also passed.
"All employees will make a reasonable effort to make it to their work station," was the language used by Fazio in discussing the policy. The clause also specifies the efforts the employees need to make to contact their supervisors if they are unable to make it into work.
Full-time township employees will no longer get a paid lunch break, but will have a "half-hour, uninterrupted, unpaid lunch break," according to Fazio.
The final personnel matter on the agenda related to the hiring of an administrative assistant, Carol Matthews. Knappenberger voted against the new hire.
Katz asked Knappenberger why she voted "no."
"She has no accounting or bookkeeping experience and the ad in the paper was very specific as to the requirements," said Knappenburger.
Knappenburger's response brought a harsh retort from Katz.
"She (Knappenburger) needs to stop giving away the township to her relatives," said Katz.
When Knappenburger attempted to reply Katz cut her off saying, "Shut up."
Chairman Paul Montemuro regained control of the meeting to address an additional item he felt was related to personnel.
"Some people seemed to be concerned that we had salt trucks out in the last two weather events. I just want people to know that the cost to the township for the two trucks we had out was about $400. We were also the only township with no delays. According to Carbon County 911, our township roads were the best in the county and we had no accidents reported. I feel that $400 is a small price to pay for the safety of the kids on the school buses," was Montemuro's response.
With regard to the township roads, Montemuro also stated during the meeting that all of the township roads will be brought up to code within the next year.
"We won't have any more oil and chip repairs. Those were made just to hold some of the roads over until we could get them repaired properly, which is what we will be doing now."
During the public comment section of the meeting there was another round of complaints about the township engineer's attempts to close out the open building permits.
Joseph Carney of Unionville Road recently had an inspection on a permit his father took out in 2006 for an above-ground pool. The pool failed the inspection. Carney was concerned about the 30 days that are given to make the repairs. Montemuro advised Carney to submit a letter to the supervisors requesting an extension, saying that the township would be happy to work with the residents on granting extensions.
Edward TenEyck of Jim Thorpe had a similar issue with a garage extension that failed a belated inspection. TenEyck was further upset by the way the township inspector treated him when he questioned her regarding the inspection.
"I have only been to this township building twice. Once to pick up a garbage permit and once to see the inspector about this report. The reason I questioned it is that the builder had exactly the same addition, with no Sheetrock and his passed. My addition has Sheetrock and I failed because one area is not sheet rocked. What upsets me the most is that when I questioned the inspector, she told me she had 'more important things to do and that I should stop wasting her time.'"
Montemuro agreed to look into the issue and said that he would have Cindy Henning get back to TenEyck regarding the inspection, and that he personally would speak with the inspector regarding her conversation with TenEyck.
Montemuro also addressed what he referred to as the "frustration" residents might have over the problem of the open permits.
"We have some 1,479 open permits out there. This board is trying to clean this up. CO's (certificates of occupancy) need to be issued or there could be liability to the township. Some of these properties have been occupied for years and are not even paying taxes because of this," Montemuro explained.
Tom Whitely, president of Penn Forest No. 1 Volunteer Fire Company met with the supervisors privately during the executive session. Whitely then addressed the open meeting.
It seems that on occasion the township has used the hall at the fire house when the township meeting room is too small to hold the people expected for a meeting. The example given was the recent planning commission meeting regarding the Navitat Adventure Canopy. The fire company usually charges a flat fee of $250 for the use of the facility.
After the October planning meeting the fire house approached the township and requested that they pay the same fee. The reasoning being that the fire house would have to do the same clean up and set up as any other meeting.
Every year the township gives an equal amount to each of the fire companies. The amount set forth in the 2013 budget was to be $55,000 for each company. When the proposed budget came out for review, $ 10,000 had be taken from Penn Forest 1, and put aside to use for paying for meetings.
The reasoning behind the change was explained by Montemuro.
"We felt that the fire company was asking the taxpayers to pay twice. First the tax payers pay the fire company as part of the yearly contribution, and then we were being asked to pay again when we needed to use the facility. By withholding the money up front, we would have the money to pay later without essentially paying twice," was Montemuro's explanation.
The fire company came before the board on Monday to revive their request to allow the fire company to make an internal account that would show a credit for the meetings in the general fund.
On the subject of the fire companies, last month Montemuro had made a point of noting everything that Penn Forest 1 and Penn Forest 2 had done for the community in the wake of super storm Sandy.
"When there is an emergency like Sandy, and the expenses get to a certain level, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) kicks in funds. The expenses for Sandy were not high enough for FEMA to give us any money. The fire companies put money out to buy food and supplies and we think it is fair to reimburse them for their expenses. So they have been requested to get us the figures and we will reimburse them for what they did," said Montemuro.
During the meeting, Montemuro also swore in Harold Romig Jr. as a new fire police officer for Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company 2.
Lastly, the planning commission will meet Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company 1. The Navitat Adventure Canopy is on the agenda and will be taking public comment again.
"This is your opportunity to be heard," warned Montemuro. "Once this is a done deal, it's a done deal. We can only make sure they have their ducks in a row and they follow the codes. As supervisors we cannot stop something just because we don't like it."