Bethlehem Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lehigh County: Debit vote could be soon

Thursday, April 18, 2013 by ANDREW CASS Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners held the second reading of a bill that would ask voters if they would like to give final approval before the county incurs certain types of debt at its April 10 meeting.

If the bill passes, Lehigh County voters will be asked in November if they would like to make the final decision before the county issues debt to support private sector activities, such as building a pro football stadium.

Currently the commissioners can ask for voter advisory before the county incurs debt, but it is not required. If approved in November, voter approval would be mandatory any time the county plans to create debt for private sector activities.

Commissioner Thomas Creighton, who sponsored the bill, said it would add an extra hurdle to the process before debt can be approved.

The bill was originally proposed in 2011 and was sponsored by Creighton and then-commissioners Dean Browning and Andy Roman. The bill was then reintroduced last December by Creighton.

"Like fine wine, this bill hopefully gets better with age," Creighton said.

Debt approved by voters does not count against the county's debt limit, which concerns some commissioners.

"I think the issue is we would be creating a situation that wouldn't exist otherwise," Commissioner Michael Schware said. "Normally, a project would come to us and we'd vote on it and it would count toward the cap. By adding this we could perhaps create a situation that could push us over that cap."

Commissioner Vic Mazziotti said the county is far off from its debt limit, so he's not sure the potential to go over that cap is a significant issue, but said it was still a concern.

Commissioner Scott Ott said that he agreed with Creighton that the bill would add a second hurdle and slow down the process of approving debt, but said the possibility of going over the debt limit is troubling.

The bill will be voted on at the next board of commissioners meeting on April 25 in the public hearing room of the Lehigh County Government Center in Allentown.