At the Nov 5, 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting the topic of Contractor Licensing in the Township was addressed as noted earlier. Township Solicitor, Mr. Gary Asteak reported that the State Legislature passed an act that in essence supersedes local ordinances dealing with contractor licensing to take effect in 2009. As such, the anticipated Lower Nazareth Twp. (LNT) ordinance would not yield the results desired and is not worth the effort.
There were three items on the agenda under Managers Report.
- Project Time Extension Reports
- Draft 2009 Budget
- Authorization to advertise use of CPA to perform Audit.
#1 – These extensions are requested by developers & applicants when they are not ready to proceed to the next step of their projects. In the past each and every extension was voted on and passed by the Board, a waste of public meeting time. In a prior Board meeting authorization was granted to the Township Manager to handle these as an administrative task and provide status reports (conceptually a good measure) to the Board. However, the implementation is lacking. In the past a citizen could monitor the Township Board Minutes and keep track of any given project and it’s status as time extensions were part of the Plan of Record, - NO longer. How does this impact you, why should you care? Here’s a scenario:
Say you were following the IDI Warehouse project (the one bordering Palmer Twp. which is currently in litigation) and the developer was scheduled to present at a future Board Meeting which you planned on attending and schedule your time accordingly. At an interim meeting the Developer files for an extension which was routinely (and justifiably) granted, and it became part of that meetings minutes. You read the minutes and see that IDI will not be at the next meeting, they have been granted an extension to XX/XX/2008. You modify your calendar to accommodate the change. Now these extensions are granted administratively (a good thing) but they are not incorporated in the minutes (a bad thing.) Unless or until someone requests a copy of the Extension Report and publishes it, there is no indication whether/if the project you are interested in has filed for an extension and what their new timeline is.
#2 – Now here’s some good news. Mr. Tenges reported the draft budget does NOT include a tax increase for 2009, the tax rate for LNT will remain 4.15 mils. The overall budget purportedly has a net increase of $42,500. Reflected in the budget is an increase of approximately $50K for the Colonial Regional Police contract (mostly wages & benefits) and a tentative budget increase of 4% for the Nazareth Area Library as well as an increase of ~$30K for the Fire Department. Mr. Tenges claimed reductions in other areas of the budget allow the Township to maintain basically a flat budget. A copy of the budget has been requested and will be posted when obtained. The draft budget will be advertised and it is anticipated the Board will vote on it at the first meeting in December (12/03/08 @ 7:30pm). Tim noted that the 2009 budget also makes provision for an additional person in the Road Department when he’s ready to fill it. (Don’t know, and didn’t ask if this is the Roadmaster position at + $60k per year. Will look for it in the budget.)
#3 – Procedural issue. Hmm, now that I am looking at the 11/05/08 agenda, I’m not sure if LNT is advertising FOR a CPA to do the audit (a bid) or advertising that they are going to use one. If the latter, how will they be selected?
#3 – Here’s the bit: PA Code for 2nd Class Townships require the Twp advertise if they are using a CPA in lieu of the Elected Board of Auditors. LNT has been using a CPA for years and makes the appointment at the annual reorganization meeting which is open to the public.
Okay, now I’m getting on my soapbox. Let me preface this note with the comment I believe spending $12,178.00 for a wide format printer/copier/scanner is a good idea. But here’s the irony in Tim’s request and logic.
Mr. Tenges informed the Board he would like to obtain a new Ricoh “Wide Format Copier” in order to make it easier to comply with the new open records law. For example under the new law, house plans are public records and LNT has already had requests for some homeowners floor plans. Currently requests for documents that can not be printed in the township offices are fulfilled by having them printed at Keystone Engineering (the Township’s contracted engineering firm) or at a local shop (Staples, Kinkos etc..) The new machine is actually a multi-function unit that prints, scans in Adobe PDF format and copies, allowing the township to create digitized plans and records readable by virtually any personal computer. Now you might be thinking ‘Good on ya Mr. Tenges for finding a way to more expediently meet citizens requests for information’ ………. but you would be mistaken.
You see, current information such as meeting minutes, budgets, and Board correspondence are already available in digital format, but we (citizens) don’t get the information that quick and easy.
First you must be aware that some information exists (over a year ago LNT spent thousands of dollars to have an updated website created for them by Enternet, providing citizens access to critical information, well that isn’t deployed yet. See Morning Call article “Cobwebs” and visit the Township Site.) Then you must complete a Township form requesting the information (not available online at the Township site, and I can’t provide a copy at the LNT Citizens Forum because the township won’t let me have a copy.) Then come back and pick up the information when they have the paper copies ready in a few days.
(The Township does now permit you to request the information via email, saving you one trip to the Twp. Office during their business hours, but you still must transcribe your email request to the paper form when you get there for pick up)
In September of 2007 I requested that I receive digital copies instead of paper and was informed it would be considered – I still haven’t heard anything on that. Think about that for a minute. Send an email request for information, they receive the request, click reply, attach file – DONE. But no, let’s consume the requesting citizens time, gas and money and then have someone take the time to print out on paper the requested DIGITAL information, and personally provide that when the citizen physically comes in to the office. Damn, isn’t that efficient use of time and resources.
So, back to the new multi-function machine. There are some significant benefits to the township and by extension, us the taxpayers. We will have a digital back up of all records and plans. Should LNT suffer a fire or other catastrophe, we currently would lose virtually ALL of our records. By digitizing plans and records it is much easier to archive off site. Access to information is also faster, easier (as noted earlier, for employees only) and more precise. LNT will also be able to reduce outside printing expenses.
So yes, I am in favor of the Township entering the digital age – I just wish they would Share the benefits with us..
All of the referenced documents will be available on the Citizens Website as soon as they are available.