Northwestern Press

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Board discusses bridges

Thursday, May 18, 2017 by JENNIFER BODISCH Special to The Press in Local News

After months of planning and review, the Mini Cell Tower Ordinance, was passed by the Lowhill supervisors at their May 4 meeting.

The ordinance provides township regulations regarding possible future cell tower installations by communications developers.

Similar ordinances have recently been passed in neighboring townships.

In bridge updates, Chairman Rick Hughes reported a meeting was held with Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein and Director of General Services Rick Molchany to discuss the progress of the Bittners Corner Bridge replacement.

Previously, Lehigh County sent a letter to Lowhill Township stating the county will be replacing the bridge and providing a temporary one to alleviate Route 100 access concerns expressed last spring by residents.

“Nothing was decided, but the bridge will be replaced,” Hughes said.

An update will be given at the June board meeting.

Bear Bridge has also been a topic of concern amongst supervisors in recent months.

Supervisor Rob Werley, Road Foreman Joe Kalusky, and township engineer Ryan Christman previously met with state Rep. Gary Day, R-187th, to discuss funding and expediting the permits needed.

Werley, Kalusky and Christman met with state engineers and reported back to the board.

“The purpose was to get feedback from the state’s engineer and try to get some knowledge of what they suggest to do,” Werley said.

“The good news is, we thought either the bridge would have to have a weight limit put on this fall or even shut down, but based upon what they look at and all the information we gave them, from their standpoint, they think we can get another 7 to 10 years.”

Werley also thanked Day for his assistance during the process.

As discussed by the board, the news comes as a great relief, as the eventual cost of replacing the bridge could reach several 100’s of thousands; however, planning for the cost of bridge repairs must be addressed by the current board.

“We can’t let this fall by the wayside, we have to be proactive,” Hughes said, stressing the importance of the board seeking solutions and staying on top of costs.

“Bridges are going to be a real struggle in the upcoming years,” Hughes said. “To stay within budget, we are going to have to do some planning.”

Christopher Noll gave his recommendations for upgrades to the township building’s sand and oil separator.

The changes will comply with future MS4 requirements.

In administrator comments, Brian Carl approached the board about Act 172 of 2016: Tax relief for volunteer firefighters, legislature that was passed by the governor last year.

“It’s still early yet and the state fire commissioner is coming up with guidelines,” Carl said, who is also the chief of Weisenberg Fire Department and a Weisenberg Township Administrator.

“I’m approaching you guys more on the fire side,” Carl said, who told the board that as the process moves forward, “the legislation needs to be passed by ordinance in each township.”

The relief can provide up to a 20 percent rebate on real estate tax for the township and/or up to 100 percent reimbursement on Earned Income Tax.

It would be up to the municipalities to set up the guidelines.

Asking for consideration from the board, Carl added that for an easier process, “It would be nice if we could get all four the townships up in our area to adopt a same or a similar program and criteria.”

The relief would start in 2018 and eligible firefighters would be required to pay their taxes as normal.

Carl stated the record keeping part is already in place, as all chiefs are required to report to the state individually.

Each eligible firefighter would be provided with paperwork to present to the township to apply for the relief.

The overall cost to the township would be very minimal.

The supervisors were in support of the tax relief, but had questions regarding record keeping and implementation.

“It’s not the money, it’s just how do we keep track of it,” Hughes said.

Supervisor George Wessner agreed, supporting the rebate or reimbursement, but saying, “It just seems cumbersome.”

Admitting there will be a few small challenges, Carl thanked the board and will report back as things get ironed out by the state.

“It’s something,” Carl said. “When it comes down to it, it really doesn’t amount to much when on average you’re making maybe 100 calls or trainings a year, they (the volunteers) may get a buck or two an hour.”

In other monthly updates, the road master report was given by Joseph Kalusky, who reported on tree trimming, equipment repairs and progress on spring cleanup.

In new business, Hughes commented,

“Unfortunately, we had to dismiss one of our employees,”

Following the comment a motion was made and approved to terminate road crew member Erik Lynch effective April 18.