The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday, September 13 to discuss road work and personal shooting ranges, among other topics.
After approving bills about general fund and state fund checks, the board heard from representatives concerning a plan for the Fields at Cottonwood. The board agreed to approve the plan, pending a review by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and a final review by the township engineer. They also approved requests for extensions regarding three other plans, and to release funds for Northampton Area School District.
Township Engineer Michael Muffley reported that the former Archery Addictions building is in need of a new retaining wall. Riverview Self-Storage is planning a 360-unit storage facility in Walnutport. Both issues will be discussed in greater detail next month.
Sandra Hopkins and Patrick VanderPloeg of the recreation commission shared images of the new sign being developed for Bryfogle Park. A formal request for approval will be submitted once Hopkins has more details. A community softball game has been organized for October 1, and VanderPloeg is arranging for food trucks to be available. Board members promised to see that the fields are lined and an umpire is found.
The public works department has a vacancy on their road crew; the board approved a motion to advertise for the position. PennDOT is continuing work on Evergreen and Municipal roads, as well as a few other locations, and hot material will start being laid during the next week. The road work is projected to be completed within three weeks; information will be posted to the township website when available. The work on Route 248 is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
Public Works Director Frank Zamadics explained that they have had issues with a mower repaired by Deere Country, which worked for only two days before breaking down again. The mower has been repaired a second time and is now working, but the township is being invoiced for the second repair. Vice Chairman Gerald Pritchard objected to paying additional money for repairs, citing that it should have been done right the first time, and Board member Cynthia Miller suggested that Zamadics look for a different vendor to take care of future repairs. Deere Country will be sent a letter stating the board’s position on the invoices, in hopes of coming to an agreement regarding the outstanding balance. Additionally, the department is looking for a new line painter and is gathering price quotes for trucks, as they need to replace two pickup trucks and purchase a miller.
Jaindl has requested another meeting with the zoning department, and Neil Ettinger will serve as the department’s legal representation for the meeting. Meanwhile, traffic has been spiking due to the multiple detours caused by the road work; Police Chief Scott Fogel expressed his sympathies for the residents impacted by the detours, but urged them not to take matters into their own hands by blocking or redirecting traffic. Community outreach programs have been going well, and on October 7 the police will sponsor another movie in the park at Danielsville Park. Capital improvements for the department will include equipment for the squad room, a new car and camera, five body cams, a new door, repairs to car radios, and a new sign.
Fogel brought up a “surprise” matter for the board. In his search for a replacement squad car, he found one of the exact same make and model as the car it would replace, with an asking price of $11,000. However, the car is on a bidding website and the auction would shortly expire. Township Manager Alice Rehrig pointed out that getting this car now would mean one less car to buy in 2023; this new car would not need replacing before 2026 and would help the township return to its previous plan of only buying one police car per year. The board gave Fogel permission to bid up to $12,500 for the vehicle.
Fire Commissioner Richard Hildebrand reported that the ladder truck is now out of service. He is working on estimates for repairs and will keep the board updated. The pumper engine will eventually need replacing, but the ladder truck is the priority. The rising cost of equipment is creating challenges; board member Miller pointed out that the board is doing everything they can to not have to implement a fire tax on residents.
Turkey Hill is waiting on a contractor but hopes to get their relocation project moving before the end of the year. Township Solicitor David Backenstoe reported that everything is ready on Lehigh Township’s end. PennDOT expects to begin upgrading the traffic signals on Routes 248 and 145 by next year.
Many residents attended the meeting for the topic of shooting ranges. The board is considering amending ordinances for these, as David Backenstoe stated the current provisions for private shooting ranges are no longer sufficient. Furthermore, they open up Lehigh Township to possible lawsuits. Some of those in attendance reported having already suffered property damage from stray bullets fired on personal ranges. Chief Fogel said he is doing everything in his power to find the responsible parties, and Backenstoe reminded everyone that any shooter who causes property damage, injury, or death is criminally liable. Backenstoe said he will work with Township Manager Rehrig to create a new ordinance for review at one of next month’s meetings, but it was his recommendation that the board repeal the ordinance as it stands currently. One resident stated that anyone who really wants to fire a gun should join one of the multiple gun clubs available in the area.
The Blue Mountain Quarter Midgets are looking to hold their end-of-year race at the end of September; they want to have two races per class, and the board granted them an extra hour in case the event lasts longer than expected. As a final note, it was remarked that the old Kmart building has been purchased, but the board is not yet aware of the buyer’s identity or plans for the location.
The next supervisors meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 1069 Municipal Rd., Walnutport, and will begin an hour early, at 6 p.m., to discuss the 2023 budget. Regular agenda items will begin once the budget portion has concluded.