Sunshine Law violation probed

By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor

VALLEY VIEW – A possible Sunshine Law violation was brought to light by Hegins Township resident Darrell Huntsinger during the monthly township meeting held Wednesday, April 4.
Huntsinger said he filed a right to know request for the audio recording from the January 6, 2016 reorganization meeting, but Cathy Moyer, the right to know officer for the township mistakenly gave him the January 2014 recording.
According to Huntsinger, the audio contained a recording of a private meeting that he said was held after the adjournment of the regular meeting. Huntsinger said most of the conversation during the second meeting concerned the Act 537 plan. He said there are no minutes that contain record of the private meeting that was on the recording.
Huntsinger said the audio contained the voices of Chad Richards, Mike Begis, Brad Carl, Cathy Moyer, Demetrius Kasmari from the Hegins-Hubley Water Authority and David Miller of Alfred Benesch and Company. Huntsinger asked township Solicitor Donald Karpowich if this wasn’t a Sunshine Law Violation.
Karpowich who said he wasn’t aware of the tape, said no decisions can be made privately. He said it would need to be determined if it was a violation.
Supervisor Begis said he was unaware of a private meeting, but he was sure Karpowich already knew what Huntsinger was talking about.
Karpowich warned Begis about making conspiracy statements.
Begis said remember you work for the township Mr. Karpowich, you represent us, you can’t advise Huntsinger.
Karpowich told Huntsinger he would need to seek private counsel if he felt there was a Sunshine Law violation.
Huntsinger didn’t say if he would seek counsel or not.
(Editor’s Note: The Citizen-Standard has listened to the audio and in their opinion, the group of men were talking after the meeting, but no decisions were made and no votes were taken. It sounded like there were several conversations going on at once on various topics. According to the legal counsel at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association in Harrisburg, if no motions or votes were taken there is no violation.)
Roger Wetzel, a concerned citizen, also made reference to the audio. He said a private meeting that took place at Benesch Engineering attended by Carl, Richards, Fred Bowman, Hubley Township Supevisors, and Kasmari was discussed on the audio. According to Wetzel, that meeting was never brought back to the township meeting for discussion or recorded. Wetzel asked how that isn’t a violation. He said the people are being dictated to and he doesn’t understand why Kasmari went along to that meeting. He asked if that meeting took place?
Begis told Wetzel to file a complaint if he thinks something was done wrong. He did say that townships are allowed to have information sessions as long as no decisions are made, but if he thinks there was a violation he should file a complaint.
Begis also said the same about the current board. According to Begis, there was a meeting on January 8, where some of the board members met with Attorney Dean, the lawyer representing the township on the Act 537 appeal, and some weren’t informed. He asked how does that happen?
While on the topic of public comment, a group of neighbors from the Broad Street, Maple Street intersection area, attended the meeting to complain about a neighbor who they say is setting off fireworks almost every night. The citiznes asked if there is not a noise ordinance or something that can be done to stop the man from setting off the fireworks.
“We don’t want enemies,” said Carol Stehr, a resident form that neighborhood, “but this is enough to give someone a heart attack.”
According to the neighbors this has been going on for the past two years.
Hegins Twp. Police Chief Steve Lohr said he has been at the home several times and they are not set off every night and there isn’t really anything he can do to stop it.
The supervisors are going to review the noise ordinance and determine if something can be done.
Supervisor Brad Carl questioned the amount that township solicitor Karpowich charges for township meetings. Carl said when Gretchen Sterns was representing the township they would pay her $225 per meeting. Carl said Karpowich is being paid anywhere from $400 to over $500 per meeting.
Karpowich said he charges for his time at the meeting plus travel time. His fee is $100 per hour and he charges 40-minutes one way travel time for each meeting.
Police report
Chief Lohr said there has bee two recent accidents on Schwenk’s Road. Lohr said the crashes were due to speed. He said the police will be making a presence on that road to try and slow the people down.
Lohr also reminded the public to be mindful of the school bus stops in the township. He said there are a lot of stops and he reminded motorists that they may not go through an intersection when there is a bus stop near the intersection. He said even if the car is going straight and not turning, it still can’t go through the intersection while the bus is stopped. He said if anyone sees something unsafe they should notify the police immediately.
Road Foreman
The tentative road work for this year will include paving Chestnut Street and seal coating Park Lane, Klinger and Farm Lane and Industrial Road.
After some discussion, the township supervisors have agreed to increase the pay of the people who mow the grass for the township to $10 per hour for mowing. There hasn’t been an increase in the mowing rate since 2008.
Fire Company
Although no one was present from the fire company, a report was given. It was announced that the Hegins-Valley Fire Rescue plans to hold a carnival June 16, 17, 18 with rides and entertainment. A parade will be held Thursday, June 16, at 7 p.m. They hope to have more information available next month.
Planning commission
Sandra Renninger, Hegins, has been appointed to the Hegins Township Planning Commission.
Gap Street Bridge
Last months representatives from the state attended the township meeting to discuss their plans to replace the Gap Street Bridge. At that time it was discussed having Broad Street as the detour route for trucks. After some discussion, the supervisors are planning to send the state a letter asking them to consider making the detour route to Schwenk’s Road and altering the intersection of Schwenks and route 25 in Sacramento so that trucks can make the turn to go east.
Rob Feldman from Rausch Creek said he would like to state to repair the bridge one lane at a time instead of closing the bridge entirely during construction. He is concerned about the length of time it will take to have an ambulance get to the Rausch Creek Trailriders.
Jeff Kline, a resident of Schwenks Road asked what the status of the windmill project was. He said he noticed the test towers were removed last month and he wanted to know if there were any updates on the project.
Rob Feldman of Rausch Creek said the towers have been taken down because enough test data was collected. He said Jeff Hammond is still the development manager and he would be happy to entertain calls about the project.
Chris Wetzel, also a resident of Schwenk’s Road said he would like an amendment to the current ordinance that would require the windmills to be set back even further from neighboring property lines.
Even though Begis said he doesn’t like to spend money on Attorney Karpowich, the supervisors have authorized him to review the ordinance.
Gas pipeline
Representatives from Williams Atlantic Sunrise attended the meeting to discuss the portion of natural gas pipeline that will pass through a portion of Hegins Township in the Fountain area. They said the project would start in early 2017 and would last approximately two years. The company will work with the supervisors to insure the roads will be protected in which the gas pipeline trucks are utilizing during the time of the project.

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