Fireworks fly at Penn Forest meeting
JUDY DOLGOS-KRAMER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Penn Forest Township Solicitor Gregory Mousseau swears in Laurette Keiper as a fire police officer for Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company No. 2.
It didn't take long for the fireworks to fly at Monday's supervisors' meeting in Penn Forest Township.
Shortly after public comment, Supervisor Paul Montemuro made a motion by which he would once again be chairman of the board of supervisors.
Montemuro had stepped down a month earlier due to what he said was "his inability to get control" and that several of the board members "were out of control."
Montemuro's motion passed with only Supervisor Alan Katz voting against it.
"My next motion will be that I will take over the day-to-day operations of the township. In the future all employee complaints will be in writing," Montemuro continued.
The third motion was to remove secretary Robert Natkie from his position.
"Since the terms of your hiring required you to be 'bondable' and we have found that you cannot be bonded, you are relieved of your position," stated Montemuro.
Montemuro then began to make the motion to return former secretary Maryann Lewellyn to the position. At which point Katz demanded discussion on the matter. Katz began a very personal attack on Lewellyn, claiming that he wanted her to reimburse the township for legal fees incurred in response to a complaint Lewellyn had filed against the township regarding a personnel matter.
Katz went so far as to distribute a copy of a letter regarding the matter addressed to township solicitor Greg Mousseau to everyone in attendance.
Katz and supervisor Christine Fazio also claimed that Lewellyn had failed to reconcile the bank accounts from August until the date she left her job in December. According to Katz, Lewellyn's "incompetence is costing us a couple of thousand dollars. Is she gonna reimburse us?"
Mousseau strongly advised Katz and Fazio to stop discussing personnel matters outside of an executive session. In addition, a number of residents in attendance also protested comments made by Katz and Fazio.
Montemuro called for an executive session to further discuss the matter.
"It's very easy to misstate what happened to make it sound bad," Lewellyn said outside during the executive session. "In August we had just switched over to new software and we had not been trained with actual information on the system. The system wasn't compatible with what we had been doing. We were in need of additional training to get the system up and running."
When the executive session ended, Montemuro made his motion to appoint Lewellyn to a 90-day probationary period, providing that she could still be bonded to $4 million. She was also reappointed as the township's Right-To-Know officer and to serve as township treasurer/secretary at a rate of $18 per hour.
Lewellyn agreed to accept the terms.
Katz made a motion which would require Lewellyn to reimburse the township the $800 in attorney's fees. The motion did not pass, with only Katz and Fazio voting yes.
Montemuro also made a motion to discontinue Internet access for the township's security cameras to be viewed from remote locations. In the future the security cameras can only be accessed from inside the building. The motion passed with only Katz voting no.
During the course of the meeting a new fire police officer, Laurette Keiper, was sworn in for Penn Forest Volunteer Fire Company No. 2.
Also discussed was that a member of the zoning hearing board has informed the zoning officer that he could not sit on the board with regard to the Navitat project. Since no one present had actually spoken to the board member it was unclear as to it being a conflict of interest, in which case an alternate would need to be appointed, or if he had resigned, in which case a new member would need to be appointed. The matter was tabled until more information was obtained.
Montemuro made a motion to reconfigure the phone system so that an operator will pick up the phone instead of calls going into voice mail during office hours. The motion passed.
There were a number of people who had written to the township requesting replacement punch cards for the transfer station at a prorated rate.
"We have a set period of time when the cards can be purchased at a discount. After that date the cards will cost $100. That's not going to be changed," said Montemuro. The board voted no on discounted replacement cards.
The township received a request from Penn Dot for a recommendation on Pickarski Incorporated. Pickarski is the construction company that did the repairs to the bridge on Meckesville Road. The township was very pleased with the work done by Pickarski and agreed to give them a good recommendation.
The treasurer's report could not be accepted because it only accounted for the interest and not the principle in the accounts.
Volunteer fire companies Penn Forest No. 1 and Penn Forest No. 2 filed their quarterly operating reports. A motion was made to accept the reports and to release the quarterly funds.
There is a zoning hearing board meeting scheduled for April 4. Navitat is scheduled to be on the agenda.
Navitat has granted approval through May 31 for the board of supervisors to review its plans. This means that the plans would need to be ready for review in time for the May 6 supervisors' meeting.
Navitat is not scheduled to appear at the March 25 planning meeting.
The final plans for the new park were reviewed and approved by the planning board and were submitted to the supervisors for approval.
According to Montemuro, the park has received its DEP soil conservation approval, the HOP permits and approval and is now awaiting the Carbon County Planning Commission approval.
Supervisor Warren Reinert, who also serves as road master, requested to purchase two ladders and an 80-gallon air compressor and the items needed to properly operate the air compressor. Montemuro made a motion to allow Reinert to spend up to $2,500 on tools.
In addition, Reinert has been obtaining quotes for a new backhoe. The quotes range from $85,000 to $100,000 with the Costars discount. No decision will be made until additional information is received.
Under public comments, Joe Swagart asked the township if the fire companies planned to add a tanker truck to their apparatus. Montemuro pointed out that the fire companies are independent of the township. The township budgets money for the companies every year, and it requires the companies to utilize that money for certain types of expenditures, but a decision like purchasing a tanker truck would have to come from the fire company, not the township.
William Miller brought up that he had constructed a pole barn in 2009 and that the township inspectors had only recently performed the final inspection. Miller claimed that there was a laundry list of items that the inspector wanted, including some that would be costly, such as digging down to measure the footers.
"All of these items were inspected and passed in the first two inspections," claimed Miller. "Shouldn't the township have records of this?"
Montemuro pointed out that the inspection companies keep the records and that Miller should check with the inspection company.
Montemuro also made mention of the recent decision by Carbon County to stop its recycling program.
"We are going to continue to recycle," said Montemuro. "We just need time to figure out exactly what and how. In the meantime residents should still bag their recycling separate from their trash and bring it to the transfer station. As long as the recycling is not mixed with trash, they will not be charged for the extra bags."