The April 9 meeting of the Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors began with local project updates from representatives. On the recommendation of the planning commission, the John and Dennis Moyer lot consolidation plan was granted an extension until July 31.

The owner of Amey’s Garage, who is seeking to merge two lots into one large commercial lot, was advised to submit the information to the planning commission.

The municipal authority has signed an agreement with Peter Jaindl regarding the installation of water and sewer lines and fire hydrants at the Pennsville booster station. The new setup will be more efficient and emit fewer unpleasant odors.

Township Engineer Michael Muffley spoke on behalf of Sedler Design & Redevelopment LLC, whose project is “in the home stretch,” and they were granted an extension for plan recording until July 31. Muffley also advised the board that the Northwoods project is nearly finished with its phase one improvements, and the plans for phase two have been submitted for recording.

The recreation board has partnered with Blue Mountain Fish & Game to conduct a basket fundraiser, which will jointly benefit the recreation board and Furry Feet Rescue. Donations of baskets are being accepted and can be dropped off at the municipal building. The date of the event will be announced shortly. 

The baseball season will open on May 6, and there will be a pet inoculation clinic at the municipal building on May 18.

The public works department acquired the pickup truck from last month’s auction. Public Works Director Frank Zamadics was authorized to order a new lift gate and to place a bid up to $3,200 for a snow plow attachment.

Danielsville Park should have its pickleball court completed before the next board meeting, and the department is doing prep work for repairing township roads. Zamadics noted that some of the parks have experienced vandalism in their restrooms, which is being fixed, and urged the public to contact the police if they witness any suspicious activity in the parks.

In other news, residents who need to dispose of branches and cut trees while the yard waste site is closed should take the items to the main location on Weaversville Road.

The Zoning board has received 31 new permit applications and five new complaints. They had two board meetings in March but have nothing planned for April. A meeting is scheduled for May 16 regarding solar energy.

Police Chief Scott Fogel reiterated the comments regarding vandalism in the parks, saying that witnesses should call 911 and the officers will keep an eye on the situation. 

The department had a visit on April 2 from Alex Mann, a young man with autism, who is visiting police departments across the state for Autism Awareness Month with the hope of raising police understanding of autism. 

In other news, a fatal crash on Route 145 occurred in the township in the morning on Tuesday, April 2 involving a tri-axle dump truck and a car. Fogel stated that three witnesses assisted the police that morning. 

Officer Robert Manogue has retired after 21 years of police service with the township. The board has met with a qualified candidate for a department vacancy, so they agreed to move forward with extending an offer of employment after he completes his academy education in October.

Fire Commissioner Richard Hildebrand provided his quarterly report to the board, with activity including 75 fires. Recent storms have brought down many branches on wires and this is likely to continue throughout the spring. 

The sportsmen’s night fundraiser was successful despite poor weather, and the fire company raised enough money for vehicle maintenance and electric bills through the end of the year. Hildebrand also mentioned there is some “creative parking” happening at the park in Treichlers and requested help, as the fire department cannot get their trucks through the parking during ball games. Township Manager Alice Rehrig will send a letter to the Lehigh Township Athletic Association. 

The maintenance building is still waiting for PPL, but is otherwise on schedule. Rehrig had a telephone conference regarding the submission process for special conditions on the grants for the building and the township should be receiving the full amount. A small percentage will be withheld until after an independent audit of the property is completed.

During public comments, Paul Nikisher expressed disappointment in the way meetings have been reorganized. With comments being restricted to the end, those in attendance are unable to speak on issues until after the board has voted. He urged the board members to provide greater transparency since the audience does not have the same information that they do.

The large crowd in attendance then raised several issues concerning the police and the recent settlement with former Lehigh Township police officer Jessica Edwards. Edwards’ lawsuit named both Fogel and the Lehigh Township Police Department, alleging sexual harassment and discrimination during her five years in the department. The case was settled in February for $1.75 million, of which the township is expected to pay $275,000.

Board President Michael Jones assured everyone that a rumor about dissolving the police force is “100% false.” 

Residents questioned whether Fogel would or should be fired or reprimanded, where the township will get the $275,000 for the settlement payment, and how the settlement was reached. Backenstoe clarified that the township had been represented in the suit by outside counsel appointed by the insurance company, and that following “certain discoveries,” this counsel recommended settlement. He also said that Fogel has been indemnified by the township, meaning he is not responsible for the payout.

Board member David Hess told the crowd that the board is unable to comment because if they reveal anything about the settlement, it will violate the non-disclosure agreement and “it could pull the township into another lawsuit.” 

Board member Cynthia Miller added that all of the details are not yet known, but the township taxes will not be raised to cover the payment. She also stated that they cannot comment on whether there are any related investigations taking place. 

In response to one resident’s concern about the situation influencing the new incoming officers, Miller said that there are officers whose specific duties include training the new hires.

The next meeting of the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building, located at 1069 Municipal Rd., Walnutport.


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