On July 2, after two lengthy meetings, Northampton County Council unanimously approved a mechanism under which small businesses (less than 100 employees) hurt by the pandemic will soon be able to seek grants of up to $15,000.
After two days of discussion, Northampton County Council on June 18 unanimously approved a plan for the distribution of $27.6 million in CARES Act funding that will help the county get back on its feet after a lengthy business shutdown. Priority must be given to small business grants; tourism; municipal and community assistance; mental health and addiction projects; nonprofit assistance; and broadband development. But council added one condition. It must approve all grants before they are awarded.
Northampton County’s election last November was supposed to be a relatively quiet municipal race. It was instead, an unmitigated disaster. Last week’s presidential primary was predicted to be a trainwreck. It went off without a hitch, and with the same voting system used in November. This was a pleasant surprise and relief to county council members. They expressed their gratitude to Voter Registrar Amy Cozze and her staff at their June 4 meeting.
Why the XL?
Northampton County Council conducted its first ever Skype meeting April 16. Council President Ron Heckman and VP Lori Vargo-Heffner were physically present, with the remaining seven Council members (John Cusick, Peg Ferraro, Bill McGee, Kevin Lott, Kerry Myers, Tom Giovanni and Tara Zrinski) participating by laptop. Skype is a telecommunications application that enables video chats and online meetings. Although there was lots of noise in the background from time to time, the remote format seemed to be a success.
In response to a request from Northampton County Voting Registrar Amy Cozze, County Council voted unanimously at their March 19 meeting to urge Governor Tom Wolf to delay the fast-approaching Presidential primary, currently scheduled for April 28.
On March 19, and with no advance notice, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure closed the doors of the courthouse to the public, to those who made the trip for gun permits, passports, marriage licenses or to pay taxes. Only emergencies like Protection from Abuse Act petitions were admitted.
McClure explained he needed to “pump the brakes” because people from other counties were coming. He opened the doors to the public for a county council meeting that evening, and told council the closure is only temporary.
Carmine Fusco, 55, of Bath, was well known in the harness racing industry and as a part owner of Wingate Farms in Bushkill Township, where he kept 20 horses. His decades on area racetracks, however, are eclipsed by his death. He was the first victim in both Northampton County and the state to be claimed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He died March 18 at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill. Tragically, he is one of four family members who have succumbed to the virus.
Lehigh Valley leaders, emergency management organizations and medical professionals converged on Friday the 13th at Northampton County’s EMS Center, located at the Gracedale campus, to discuss a regional approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meeting was led by Thomas McGroarty, a public health preparedness coordinator with Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. Ironically, one suggestion was to limit in-person meetings precisely like the one being conducted.
On March 2, Franklin Leonar Urrutia-Cordon was on his way to ending a case that had stalled in Northampton County courts for 30 months.
Northampton County’s IT department is outsourced to Vision Technologies, a Maryland-based company, under a contract that could cost taxpayers up to $33 million over the next 13 years. About this time last year, this private contractor began assuring county officials and the public that all county council and committee meetings would be uploaded to YouTube within a matter of months. As recently as December, Vision told county officials this would happen by February. Nothing has changed. Council President Ron Heckman has had enough, and voiced his displeasure at council’s Feb.