South Whitehall Board of Commissioners discuss park issues at meeting

Posted: 11:28 PM EST Nov 06, 2013   Updated: 8:04 AM EST Nov 07, 2013

Even though the surly winter months rest ahead, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom officials are already thinking about the radiant days of next summer.

The South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners shared that vision and granted preliminary and final approval to a subdivision called "Dorney Park and Wildwater Locker Building" during the legislative body's Wednesday night meeting.

The new project will be where the "water park meets the dry park," according to Dorney Park attorney Joseph Bubba. "This is the beginning of some additions and other improvements to Wildwater Kingdom," he said.

Michael Fehnel, vice president and general manager of Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, presented the plans to commissioners.

The current locker building is "currently very tight in there and is not a good guest experience," Fehnel said. The new building will replace one of the groves and the area next to it would be a shaded seating area. In summary, Fehnel noted, the project will have plenty of bells and whistles for park attendees.

"Much more appealing to the eye and new landscaping for our guests," he said.

Bubba added that discussion about the park is likely to come before the board again "probably within a month" with the additional modifications and improvements.

In other business, commissioners debated their next step in ascertaining how best to proceed and how much to spend on drafting an ordinance that would protect the township's historic structures in the wake of the King George Inn controversy.

Last month commissioners heard a presentation from Thomas Comitta, principal of Thomas Comitta Associates, who had answered a township RFP for just such an ordinance.

The town planner's firm cost for the project - $41,500 - was too pricey for commissioners, so in an effort to make it more economical, commissioners instructed township officials to take the inventory of historic buildings themselves, and asked Comitta to resubmit a bid without that cost.

On Wednesday night township manager Jon Hammer noted Comitta's bid was now $26,660.

Noting that she thought it was important to keep the momentum of the project going, President Christina Morgan said it was her view that an advisory subcommittee of residents and regional historic structure experts could provide the township with information on such structures and buildings which could be good candidates for the designation.

"My whole point is I don't want to see the project get stalled," Morgan said.

Hammer agreed and made it clear to commissioners this would take some time and they should not expect anything immediately. He suggested to the board he needed two weeks to "get his arms around how this committee looks" and would report back to commissioners on his findings at the next commissioners' meeting.

The meeting featured an appearance from a "very, very special guest," as Morgan put it.

The special guest was none other than the township's police dog, Cirrus, a black-as-ink German Shepherd who modeled his new police vest.

That vest comes courtesy of the not-for-profit group Hounds on Working Leashes, who outfit K9 crime fighters across the region.

Cirrus was led into the meeting by his handler, Officer Kyle Golden, and proceeded to display a great deal of enthusiasm, barking and yelping with much vim and vigor.

The furry four-legged crime fighter uses his superlative sense of smell to search for drugs and suspects, commissioners were told, and if appearances count, would-be criminals would have to seriously think twice about meeting the dog in a foul mood.