During the October 24 Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors meeting, Township Manager Alice Rehrig was honored for her 40th year of township employment. As thanks for her many years of service to the township and its people, Rehrig was presented with an arrangement of flowers and an engraved glass memento.
The completed comprehensive plan was presented for one final public hearing. Following the opportunity for questions and discussion, the board moved to adopt this final draft of the plan. A payment request from Bracy Construction for their most recent work on the maintenance building was approved. Rehrig presented the board with the bids she had received for construction of the new fueling station for their consideration.
Police Chief Scott Fogel presented his monthly report. During the month of September, Lehigh Township officers made nine arrests and logged 1,244 activities. Fogel then elaborated on a few of the specific calls to which officers responded in September. Danielsville Park has been subjected to frequent vandalism. There was an agitated man walking through the township, flailing his arms and yelling at passing cars, who was eventually found to have out-of-state warrants; however, because the warrants were from too far away for extradition, the department was not asked to hold him and the situation ended peacefully. An incident regarding a large fraudulent check required considerable investigation. Fogel provided these examples to remind everyone how important it is for the department to have a detective on the roster, and how dangerous it can be to have only a single officer responding to a call.
Fogel also reminded the board that there are two retirements expected in the spring of 2024. The board interviewed two strong candidates, and a third is also being considered while they attend the police academy. Fogel is hoping to get two people into the academy in January in order to stay ahead of the curve. The board voted to authorize Fogel to extend an offer of employment to the two successful candidates from the previous week’s interviews, provided they pass drug and alcohol checks and physical and psychological evaluations. The third candidate will be brought before the board if his first round of screening with Fogel goes well.
In response to audience inquiries, Fogel clarified that of the three candidates currently up for consideration, one does live in Lehigh Township; another is from Moore Township and the third is from Emmaus. He confirmed that if all three are hired, plus two more are put through the academy, that will cover the anticipated staff shortage. When asked if the department has inquired with the local high schools about possibly recruiting from the graduating class, Fogel explained that it is extremely unusual for a police officer to be hired younger than 21 years of age, in part because state law prohibits handguns being carried by persons younger than that. The department has, however, reached out to local colleges. Regarding sending two people to the police academy, Fogel confirmed that the academy has reserved two slots in the upcoming class for whomever Lehigh Township decides to send; if the board decides to move forward with this plan, Fogel will need their approval by the beginning of December. Vice-chairman Cynthia Miller stated the board would discuss it and have an answer for him sometime next month.
The 2024 budget was included on the agenda. Township Manager Rehrig reported that the final version is on hold due to the need for data concerning the fire tax, but that all other numbers are up-to-date and accurate. The budget discussion was tabled until the November 14 meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. in order to allow sufficient time to discuss both the budget and the fire tax.
As the floor was opened for public comment, a discussion was held regarding the budget for the recreation committee and how its money is spent. It was explained that the committee’s capital budget comes from the general fund and remains in savings until it’s needed for a large project; there is a separate fund for items such as paying for park maintenance and utilities. Regarding an inquiry about providing shade at the dog park, board member David Hess said that it will be discussed at the first recreation board meeting of 2024. Sandra Hopkins of the recreation board added that they have made attempts to establish overall plans for the use of the funding, and had county representatives tour the township’s parks in late summer to see what needs to be done, but that the process is slow-moving.
Board member Gerald Pritchard announced that his name will not be on the ballot on Election Day. He explained that he was bringing this up during public comment so that it would be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
The public meeting about the proposed fire tax will take place on Wednesday, November 8 at 6 p.m. at the Lehigh Township Volunteer Fire Co., located at 4188 Lehigh Dr., Cherryville. The board assured everyone that the meeting is being very heavily publicized and the plan is for action to be taken that night. With that, the board members adjourned for an executive session.
The next Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors meeting will be Tuesday, November 14 at 6 p.m. in the municipal building, located at 1069 Municipal Rd., Walnutport.