LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: Green Futures Fund vote delayed for third time
The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners delayed approval of the Green Futures Fund for a third time at its Jan. 9 meeting in the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown.
Several members of the board, led by Commissioner Michael Schware, said they would only approve the bill after an equal dollar amount of cuts or savings were made elsewhere to pay for the project.
Schware said he spent a lot of time over the holidays looking for ways to offset spending and has found $296,519 so far. He also suggested the Reading Road Bridge in Allentown be repaired instead of replaced as originally planned, which he said would save the county about $500,000.
The proposed bill would have funded $296,519 of the $1.06 million Green Futures Fund, with the remaining funding to be approved when further offset spending is found. The bill would have funded park projects in Allentown, Lower Macungie, Emmaus, Salisbury Township and Bethlehem.
"We can't afford to eat up our reserves, that leads to a tax hike and I can't give that to the citizens," Schware said.
The public hearing room was again packed with citizens and municipal leaders who came to voice their support of the bill, including Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who said he understood budgets "all too well" and how difficult a decision that commissioners had to make, but that it was time to make a decision.
"Just make a decision one way or another," Pawlowski said. "If you're not going to do it, let us know you're not going to do it. Don't prolong this process."
Pawlowski would not get his wish however, as the board voted 7-2 to again table the bill after a motion made by Commissioner Vic Mazziotti. Only Commissioners Daniel McCarthy and Brad Osborne voted against the delay.
Osborne said the board was "honor bound" to approve the project and if it does not, it may permanently lose the public's trust.
The meeting was the first run by new Chairman Lisa Scheller, who defeated former Chairman Osborne in a 5-4 vote at a reorganization meeting Jan. 7. Vice Chairman Scott Ott defeated Percy Dougherty in a 5-4 vote to retain the position for another year.
The board also approved the 2013 meeting schedule. Meeting will again be held 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, with the exception of the second meeting in November and December, which will be held Nov. 26 and Dec. 18 respectively.
Scheller thanked Osborne for the work he had done as chairman and said she hoped to continue his success.
"I humbly look forward to the tradition of working well with the county and continuing the work that [Osborne has] started as chair of the board," Scheller said.
Osborne also took a moment to thank the board for the opportunity.
"It's been an honor and hard work at times, but really an honor to represent this board," Osborne said. "The work that we have to do is in the business of the people and I appreciated the opportunity to serve in this position."
The next board of commissioners meeting is Jan. 23 in the public hearing room of the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown.