The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors met at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27 to begin reviewing the 2023 budget.
Before the review began, a representative of the Turkey Hill project at Blue Mountain Road and Route 248 spoke to the board about the project’s current status, and change orders were presented for the board’s consideration. It was noted that one of the change orders is about the township receiving a credit for materials that were not needed for the project, which will ease the cost of the other change orders. PennDOT has provided a list of things they require to be adjusted or fixed, and the contractor hopes to get these completed in short order. All of the nearby road work has impacted progress, but the plans are “close to the finish line.”
Supervisors then began their discussion of the 2023 budget. The township’s office computers will need upgrading within the next few years; board member Cynthia Miller proposed that this be done sooner rather than later. The possibility of adding monitors to the meeting chamber was proposed, as a means of allowing plans and presentations to be better shown to those attending meetings. Rehrig will look into organizing a formal proposal about this. There will also be an evaluation made of the heating and cooling needs in both sides of the municipal building, as that system is in need of repair.
The squad car discussed at the September 13 meeting has been successfully purchased through the auction website. The department will look into repairing their existing radios and will only purchase replacements if necessary; five body cameras are also due for replacement in the coming year. Some planned projects will hinge on the township receiving grant money and COVID-19 relief from the state, as they are still waiting for the results of some applications. Miller pointed out that there is grant money available for recreation and the township should pursue some of it in order to speed up the timeline on some improvements to the area parks. The budget was tabled to continue discussion at the next meeting.
After approving the minutes of the previous meeting and bills regarding general fund checks, the board discussed the change orders brought before them by the Turkey Hill project representative. Miller requested adding a contingency to the motion, stating that the two change orders for increased expenses would be approved provided that the credit in the third was received by the township, and the board agreed, passing the motion with that contingency in place.
Police Chief Scott Fogel then took the floor to introduce James Adams of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, who explained to board members the importance of accreditation with the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Program. This program, established in 2001, was created to help law enforcement agencies evaluate and improve their overall performance. Earlier this year, Lehigh Township’s police department applied for this accreditation, which requires them to comply with approximately 370 best practices of police procedures and to show proof of this compliance. The Chiefs of Police Association performs extensive assessments, including interviews and ride-alongs. Only about 36% of police departments in Pennsylvania receive this accreditation, which is reassessed annually, and it has been conferred on Lehigh Township’s police force unanimously by the association. Adams then presented Fogel with a large certificate formally acknowledging the accreditation.
The board also reviewed the township’s 2023 pension obligations, which Rehrig noted have been included in the budget. Four resolutions were presented for the board to adopt; the first regarded the fire department’s ladder truck, which was stated at the last meeting to need replacing. The township is applying for a grant in the amount of $750,000. The second resolution was to apply for a grant to fund an above-ground fuel storage system. The third was to authorize the execution of a traffic signal maintenance agreement with PennDOT, and the fourth was to amend various line items in the 2022 budget. All of the resolutions were approved.
Board President Michael Jones reported that the township intends to purchase turkeys for the full-time employees and the members of certain committees as their annual appreciation gift. The amount of $1,700 was allocated for the purchase of forty 16-pound turkeys.
A small tax parcel of land has been offered as a donation, but Township Solicitor David Backenstoe stated this would provide no benefit to the township and would become a maintenance requirement. The current owner will be thanked for the offer and advised to sell the land to a neighbor instead. Backenstoe also stated that the Northwoods project is progressing well; they are still in phase one and working to secure private roads. He expects to bring details to the board for approval soon.
As the floor opened for public comments, one resident brought it to the board’s attention that there is a fallen tree in Indian Trail Park near the playground. Rehrig promised to alert public works director Frank Zamadics. Fire Commissioner Richard Hildebrand informed the board that one of the trucks is out of service, a cracked head in the engine is responsible, and a replacement part is being installed.
Supervisors will next meet on Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m. in the municipal building, located at 1069 Municipal Rd., Walnutport.