LOWER MILFORD – Government transparency, police funding, and the fall festival were among the many issues residents and supervisors touched on at the Lower Milford Township Board of Supervisors meeting held at the Township Municipal Building Oct. 21.
Supervisors Donna Wright, William Roy and Michael Snovitch, Township Manager Ellen Koplin, Chief of Police John Dondero, and new Township Solicitor Mark Cappuccio attended along with approximately 30 residents.
Wright informed the audience that while the board would accept comments on the budget, the board would wait to discuss it in detail until the Nov. 4 board of supervisors’ workshop meeting.
During discussion of minutes from previous meetings, Jeff Tapler objected to the absence of any notes detailing his allegation of a Sunshine Law violation, which he made at the Oct. 7 meeting. Cappuccio dismissed Tapler’s allegation, and instructed the board not to say anything about the personnel issues which the board had discussed in executive session. Because the board recommended budget cuts as a result of that executive session discussion, Tapler claimed that the public had a right to know about the discussion. Cappuccio disagreed, saying that the budget issue was separate from the personnel issue. Wright decided that the discussion from this evening would be included in the minutes. The board then unanimously approved the disputed former minutes.
In a similar vein, Jean Schoch asked for the board to provide more copies for people to use at the meeting. A limited number of copies of the agenda, previous meeting minutes, and other documents had been made available at a table in the back. According to Schoch and others, there were not enough copies for everyone in attendance. Koplin, Wright, Roy, and Snovitch discussed the issue. Snovitch suggested that all public documents be posted online for people to print out before meetings. Roy said the township ought to provide copies for senior citizens who are unable to use computers. Koplin proposed that residents could pre-order copies from the township beforehand, and let people pick up their copies when they arrive at the meetings. Wright mentioned that often after meetings the staff has to throw away a thick stack of papers from making too many copies. “I like the idea of going as paperless as we can,” said Wright, in order to “reduce waste.” Koplin will put together a proposal for the board to review.
The board unanimously approved Act 167, a stormwater ordinance for the Perkiomen Creek Headwaters Watershed. According to board members, this had already been done for Saucon Creek and was required by the state.
The board then considered a $9,588 Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant. Chief Dondero had requested it to fund major equipment on the police force’s Quick Response Service vehicle. After the Oct. 7 supervisors meeting saw intense discussion of budget cuts affecting the QRS vehicle, Koplin and acting police chief Art Williams asked granting officials whether the township could use the grant for a different purpose. According to Koplin, the township was allowed to amend the grant, and has requested to use the money for different, future equipment. According to her, the number of QRS personnel was never an issue during the initial or amended application process. The board voted unanimously to accept the grant.
The township also voted to extend its agreement with the Berks County Intermediate Unit to prepare tax bills during 2011-2012. Koplin said they have done “a great job.” The board designated Berkheimer as its earned income tax collector for 2011. Officials mentioned that the township paid the school district $16,800 to collect taxes in 2010. They estimate it will cost Berkheimer $10,000 to do the same in 2011. The board also voted to advertise its intent to hire a certified public accountant to audit the township’s 2010 records as required by PENNVEST.
Wright announced that the 2010 fall festival cost the township a net total of $393.47, $1606.53 under the $2,000 budgeted for the event. Wright attributed the township’s low costs to the $2,533 in donations by residents and local businesses. The silent auction has also netted $2,085 so far, said Wright. Tapler asked if the figures included the cost of township staff salaries during the event. Koplin said that staff donate some hours and get paid for others. She added that the township’s policy has been to not include wages as part of festival expenses. “The festival is the one give-back to the community we hold,” Koplin said, compared to other communities that spend lots of money on multiple events each year. “I think it’s a good thing for those who take advantage of it. I really love it,” said Roy. “The idea is to see more faces and get people involved. It’s the spice of life.” Wright commended Dondero’s son, who “did a great job hawking” mums at the festival and donated over $300 of sales back to the township. Supervisors asked residents to contact them if they would like to see things added, or discontinued, at the annual festival.
Citizen David Lobach spoke up to say he was proud of the township and thanked the board for their work. The local businessman offered to sponsor the carriage ride at next year’s fall festival, which cost $900 this year. Lobach said he was “very pleased with how the board handled the budget in the last year and half,” and asked them to keep Dondero and his staff, saying they have “done an excellent job representing the township and taking my interests to heart. Make every effort to keep them. We’re going to need them.”
Another citizen, however, complained that the township has too many police on staff, asking, “Where does it end?” He also claimed that the police don’t patrol on Schultz Bridge Road. Dondero replied, “I’m sorry you’re not seeing them, but they’re definitely down there.” Dondero said that most speeding is done on state roads and highways, but that the police could sit and catch speeders on local roads if requested.
The Lower Milford Township Board of Supervisors will hold a workshop meeting at the Township Municipal Building on Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m.