Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Zoning officer needed ASAP

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 by Amit Kar Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Mayor Carolee Gifford began the Aug. 5 council meeting by thanking all who participated in the big Community Day celebration July 28, singling out the police for bringing additional joy along with the security.

Board President Leo Atkinson echoed her thanks and said it was encouraging to see the turnout of 200-300 people.

TCouncil announced the Donegan and Fountain Hill elementary schools will celebrate their recent major face-lifts with an open house block party for students and families Sept. 5, immediately after an open house.

Borough Manager Anthony Branco reported that the Borough Zoning Officer Albert Rohrbach is resigning his position effective Aug. 16. Councilors expressed their concerns about this loss and agreed that a replacement should be found ASAP.

All council members agreed to Atkinson’s suggestion to award a commemorative plaque and certificate to Rohrbach for his dedicated service to the borough.

Borough resident Patrick Figueroa requested that the zoning officer position be increased from part-time to full-time, pointing out the importance and extent of work. Council member Helen Halleman’s affirmation drew attention to dirty streets and sidewalks, particularly in the Northside.

Councilors agreed that the full-time position be advertised online for $49-$60 per hour. They ovted to appoint Branco, who has relevant experience and certification, as interim zoning officer upon Rohrbach’s departure.

A contentious discussion on formation of a Storm Water Authority followed. Five good candidates have been identified for membership. Council can exercise its right to terminate the Authority at any time. Otherwise it would run its duration of 20 years, with its membership following a rotational pattern. The meetings would be open to the public.

This would of course raise borough residents’ taxes, although there would be rebate relief for any ecological efforts, e.g. planting trees, storm drainage facilities, etc. With 39 nonprofit organizations in the borough, levying a fee instead of tax would work better, as everyone would be required to pay.

Planning meetings for this new authority are still being organized.

Plans are also under way to reduce the borough’s own part-time police force by using the state police to help finance the pension fund. The state police are expected to use some sliding scale to determine response times for various issues, e.g., a private mail-box damage, accident, homicide, etc. This will be discussed at he Sept. 3 open council meeting, attended by state police officers.