Bethlehem Township Commissioners take aim at ATV use
After a rash of complaints about the noise and dust caused by all-terrain vehicles, Bethlehem Township Commissioners are on the brink of strictly regulating their use. A proposed ordinance, debated at Monday night’s meeting, would ban their use between dusk and dawn. They would also be required to stay at least 100 feet away from the property line of any adjacent owner.
Commissioner Tom Nolan said that the ordinance under consideration is similar to one already in place in Lower Saucon Township. He said “it’s time to place some regulations. The township is filling out. We don’t have much land.” President Mike Hudak agreed but made clear that “we’re not outlawing anything.”
Under the proposed ordinance, ATVs would include snowmobiles, motor driven vehicles having two or more wheels (commonly known as trail bikes), dirt bikes, mini bikes, and all other vehicles (licensed and unlicensed) commonly used for off-road purposes. ATVs used for residential gardening, property maintenance, or agricultural purposes would be excluded.
Nolan thought there was enough information about these exceptions to add them to the ordinance last night, but the rest of the Board opted to give Manager Melissa Shafer and Solicitor Jim Broughal more time to work on the language before advertising.
According to HG, a legal information site, 135,000 people are injured every year in ATV accidents. Over 700 are killed every year, and a third of them are under 16.
In other business, commissioners voted 4-1 to appoint The Pidcock Company to administer the $2.3 million Brodhead Road reconstruction project. Pidcock, which will be paid $130,000, has been heavily involved in this project from the onset. Pidcock is also the Township’s engineer.
Hudak, the sole dissenter, explained after the meeting that He has high regard for Pidcock, but is troubled by spending $2.3 million in borrowed money to pay for a road that was destroyed by the tractor trailers from the businesses inside the industrial park.
Commissioners also voted unanimously to ease the workload of township staff. A part-time clerk, who will be paid $18,000 per year with no benefits, was approved. Manager Shafer conceded that the position is unbudgeted, but the township has been operating with reduced manpower for years.
“I want to be able to provide top notch service,” she explained, adding that the clerk would work at one of three counters inside the lobby. She said this added manpower was also recommended by the bargaining agent for township employees.
Assistant Manager Doug Bruce told Commissioners that clerical staff was at 12.5 in 2010, and was down to 8.5. Thee are currently 9.5 clerical staffers. He said that, at an average salary of $60,000, this has saved the township $1 million. “We’d like some of that back,” he said.
No member of the public spoke against this proposed hire.
Finally, Commissioners voted unanimously to give a break to employees and active volunteer firefighter who join the community center. Full-time employees will be permitted to join the Community Center for $10 a month or receive a 25 percent discount off the resident rate for a family membership. Active volunteer firefighters will also be able to join the community center for $10 a month. Firefighters will get no family discount because the Township provides no insurance for volunteer families.