Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O'HARE LVPC Executive Director Beck Bradley updates Council and predicts a business boom in several local townships. PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O'HARE LVPC Executive Director Beck Bradley updates Council and predicts a business boom in several local townships.

Northampton County: Council tables name change

Thursday, July 23, 2015 by BERNIE O'HARE Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Among the matters considered by Northampton County Council at their July 16 meeting was a Seth Vaughn and Ken Kraft ordinance to call on voters to decide whether council members could change their title to commissioners. That was tabled. So was a Seth Vaughn and Mat Benol ordinance that would ban smoking anywhere on county property, even on a rowboat in the middle of Minsi Lake.

Council also refused to tinker with a resolution unanimously adopted in April, granting a 4.5 percent raise to some clerical workers. Executive John Brown called it a scrivener's error.

Council refused to get involved in the dispute between Brown and 17 magisterial district judge over whether he really meant to give them that raise or had just made a mistake. It had been discussed at length the previous day at Ken Kraft's Personnel Committee. Seth Vaughn missed it. Instead of viewing the video, he asked council members to fill him in. And they did, even thought the matter had already been tabled.

Lamont McClure suggested tabling the "council to commissioner" ballot question. Conceded this name change was not "sufficiently grave" to bring to voters, he nevertheless defended Kraft and Vaughn, insisting it is a "legitimate point of view to have."

In a letter to The Express Times, Hayden Phillips had criticized this measure as a waste of taxpayer money.

Only Kraft and Mat Benol voted against the motion to table.

The smoking ordinance, by Vaughn's own admission, needed some work. He told council that he was willing to remove the prohibition on smoking in county parks, but was the sole council member to vote against a table motion that essentially sent his ordinance up in smoke.

Only one member of council, Phillips, was willing to untable the resolution that would allow Brown to reverse a payraise that he had proposed himself and council unanimously approved.

Brown and Deputy Administrator Cathy Allen have insisted they never intended to grant raises to 17 Magisterial District Judge employees who are already at the top of their pay scale.

Administrators have suggested a cash payout, but it is reportedly only $500, and only for one year.

Peg Ferraro was distressed that "the people on the front lines of the justice system" are paid so poorly, and was also upset that AFSCME representative Justus James was not assisting them. They are using Bethtlehem Attorney Chris Spadoni.

Council has been reluctant to inject themselves in this matter, preferring instead to see that Brown work things out with Spadoni.

In other business, Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, had some interesting details about the Lehigh Valley. Though she has no crystal ball, she is predicting a business boom in South Bethlehem and Allen townships.

She said an expansion of the Panama Canal is nearing completion that is going to allow much more freight come up the Eastern Seaboard. Because seaports have no land to expand, she believes places like South Bethlehem will become inland rail ports for large amounts of international freight.

The Fed Ex facility along Rte 248, she believes, is going to help the airport by allowing for more air freight, and should also result in a large number of businesses.