Bethlehem Press

Monday, January 22, 2018
This is the cover page of a 30-page power point that John Brown provided Upper Nazareth supervisors on March 27, proposing a new county jail on the Gracedale campus. He later called these reports “fake news.” This is the cover page of a 30-page power point that John Brown provided Upper Nazareth supervisors on March 27, proposing a new county jail on the Gracedale campus. He later called these reports “fake news.”

NORCO: Brown pushed Gracedale jail site at secret upper Nazareth meeting

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

One of the biggest issues in November’s election was Executive John Brown’s plans for a new jail at Gracedale. Did he want to build there or not? Brown had told council last spring that he had visited a dozen different locations and had ruled out a new jail in Easton. He would build on a greenfield. In July, prison advisory board chair Dan Christenson called Gracedale a great location.

When a large group of Upper Nazareth residents invaded council to complain, Brown refused to rule it out. He finally did so from his Facebook page in mid-October. Brown claimed that his opponent, Lamont McClure was trying to scare people. He also called these stories “fake news.” Brown went on to lose the election, and McClure has said there’s no need for a new jail, to say nothing of one at Gracedale. But it has recently been learned that Brown very much wanted to build a new jail at Gracedale. So much so that he had a secret meeting with Upper Nazareth supervisors about precisely that possibility March 27.

During this closed-door meeting, Brown provided a 30-page power point presentation in which he presented sketch plans showing how a facility would look at Gracedale. He said it would be barely visible from the road. He included aerial photographs showing the site superimposed on the Gracedale campus.

Brown met with supervisors for over two hours. Attending this secret meeting with him were Corrections Director Dan Keen, Administrator Cathy Allen, Public Works Director Stan Rugis and General Purpose Authority Solicitor John Lushis. Lushis’ presence is an indication that Brown was considering a P3 financing mechanism for a $180 million jail.

Under Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, officials can meet privately for informational gathering.

Supervisors have acknowledged this secret meeting, and have done so at open meetings,. Three of them - Mike Rinker, Donna Hirst and Scott Sylvainus - said they oppose the idea. Sylvanius was opposed to a meeting that failed to include the public.