Bethlehem: Southside library gets $10,000
Bethlehem City Council unanimously approved the 2013 Community Development Block Grant and HOME Program budget for 2013 at its Nov. 7 meeting.
The budget, which featured amendments by council members William Reynolds and Karen Dolan, will provide $10,000 to the Southside branch of the Bethlehem Public Library, $15,000 to drug surveillance overtime for city police officers and $15,000 toward the Employer Assisted Housing Program as part the roughly $1 million budget.
The Employer Assisted Housing Program is aimed to help encourage low-to-mid income city employees to purchase homes inside the city limits by aiding them with funds to live in a lower-income area with hope that the new neighbors could help revitalize the neighborhood.
"We would rather have our employees living in the city of Bethlehem itself than a condo in Saucon Valley," Dolan said.
The program was viewed unfavorably by many citizens in attendance, including Mary Pongracz, who said the money allocated to the program should be given to the library.
"I think Voltaire said it best, 'If you save a child, you save the world,'" Pongracz said. "One way to save a child is to educate them."
Councilman Michael Recchiuti said that he thinks $10,000 was a fair amount to give to the library and he believes it will receive the remaining funds it needs for its renovations to the Southside branch, with or without the help of the board.
"The Employer Assisted Housing Program should at least be given a chance," Recchiuti said. "It helps the whole block, the entire community."
Councilman Reynolds said that the program is a "symbolic gesture" to the private businesses that operate in Bethlehem.
"We've gone to companies like Just Born to ask them about doing something similar with their employees and they've asked, 'Well, what is the city of Bethlehem doing?'" Reynolds said. "It's important to show them that we are doing something as well."
Dolan said the program was subject to a poor public education campaign, which Mayor John Callahan agreed with.
"I honestly recognize we could have done a better job," Callahan said.
The assisted housing program was originally set to receive $25,000, but the amount was later amended to $15,000. The $10,000 taken away from the housing program was split between drug surveillance overtime and Parks and Playgrounds, with each receiving an additional $5,000 in funding.
Bethlehem Public Library Executive Director Janet Fricker thanked the board for its support of the library and said the Sands Casino will hold another fundraiser for the library next year.