Greetings! After last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, I thought long and hard on how to improve communication between our administration and the residents of our township.
Last evening our Board was accused of trying to do too much to change the community. This may be true but I would rather be accused of trying to do too much than accused of not doing enough. In the case of this website, that was the accusation. As your manager, I am sensitive to the complaint that we are not doing enough. We work hard to keep this site current but we could post more on the day to day operations of your local government. While we are proud of this website, there is always room for improvement.
What is different about our website when compared to neighboring communities? Our township staff designed and have full control over the content and layout and we offer the opportunity for each committee to design their own pages. We do not have to contract with a private firm to operate our site, waiting days for updates to be posted, making repeated requests to remove old posts, and paying thousands per year for that service. We have immediate access and full control. In the case of an emergency, instant access can become a critical factor in saving lives and property.
Websites are constantly changing and evolving and our current method may require an evolution in the future. There are talented designers and editors living in our township and we will rely on their assessment when that day arrives. Until then we appreciate the comments and will try to use your words as a springboard to providing better quality service to you.
ACT 537 PLAN UPDATE
For the past 18 months the township has been working on the preparation of their Act 537 Plan Update. There have been two presentations before the Board, one at the Planning Commission, and this is the third budget (3rd Year) that has included costs for the Act 537 plan update. There were discussions on the plan costs at our budget meetings. The contract with the engineer was voted upon at a township meeting. It is a transparent process across a long time frame and so it can appear to be more obtuse than it actually is. A full draft of the plan has now been completed (mid-November) and the Board of Supervisors may vote in January, after their review, to advertise the plan for public adoption.
This is where you, the public, have an important role to play in the next phase. You will have the opportunity to review the plan and offer comments that the township will be required to address.
What exactly is an Act 537 Plan? With the 1970 passage of the PA Sewage Facilities Act (no. 537), the Department of Environmental Protection ( DEP) adopted state-wide regulations for the planning, administration, and design standards for on-lot sewage systems. One of the most important planning sections that was adopted under the Act was the requirement that each municipality adopt a plan for the future disposal of sewage for their community. Once the plan is adopted by both the township and the state DEP , the township may begin issuing sewage permits within their jurisdiction. New land development over 800 gallons per day or subdivisions that create new lots must submit forms to the township and DEP (planning modules) that confirms the proposed development complies with the Township’s Act 537 plan.
Do we have an Act 537 Plan? Yes, we have an active plan. Our current plan was prepared by RKR Hess Associates in 1990 and approved in 1992. The plan is over 24 years old. The plan identifies “Areas of Concern” where sewage issues are present, future problems are identified, with potential solutions offered. In the 1992 Act 537 plan most solutions were on-site solutions, with community systems as a preferred method of disposal.
Why is the township updating the Act 537 Plan? There are a number of reasons why the Board of Supervisors are updating the plan. First, an update is 20 years overdue. Second, a needs study conducted of the Route 611 corridor prior to the installation of the Portland Sewage Treatment Facility had identified malfunctions, contaminated surface water and wells, and sub-standard systems within 100 feet of existing wells. However, the DEP review of the study required the township evaluate land disposal as a final disposal option and the engineer’s estimate for that evaluation resulted in a vote not to move forward with a major revision to the Act 537 Plan for the Route 611 Corridor.
That same study is being used today to justify again that there is a need for a community solution to the corridor. Since the previous study, systems have been repaired that required waivers of well isolation systems, and to be frank, failed systems and contaminations don’t improve with time- they degrade. DEP approved using older data because the cost of preparing new data to re-identify a known existing problem is duplicitous.
What about Economic Development? Another reason for the Act 537 Plan Update is the Board’s desire to improve our economic condition by marketing our long-existing, under-utilized industrial zones. These Industrial districts that have been in place for over 30 years, with very limited business interests into those districts. Your Board of Supervisors , the Bangor Area School Board, and Northampton County agreed to create a tax incentive program for our Industrial zoned properties on Route 611 and on Marshfield Drive. Once the LERTA tax program was approved, Air Liquide announced that they were hiring 180 new employees and requested we consider extending the sewer line to their Route 611 facility. This type of opportunity to bring jobs to our community is important to our Board and our larger community. Governor Wolf announced the proposed Air Liquide expansion.
Our Economic Development Committee is actively involved in the process of evaluating the type, extent, and intensity of Industrial uses and is retaining a marketing expert to assist in the evaluation.
Is the Act 537 plan available for review? There is an office copy available now for review but the book cannot leave the township. Citizens are welcome to make copies of pages that are of interest to them. We won’t be accepting comments until the thirty day review period officially begins. We will determine a full copy cost prior to advertising and make full copies available to the public at cost at that time. Full copies will be limited.
-Rick Fisher, Manager