Gracedale rating concerns continue Current director reviews 11 deficiencies and how they are being addressed
Northampton County Council’s Feb. 7 agenda was empty. Council members were apparently looking forward to a 15-minute meeting. A negative report card from the state Department of Health concerning Gracedale could be discussed later. Council suddenly reversed course after criticism on social media. That health inspection was discussed in detail.
Executive Lamont McClure started by saying he regrets not having fired Premier, the nursing home’s administrator, last year. Premier was still Gracedale’s manager at the time of a health inspection that resulted in 11 deficiencies.
Two new sketch plans were considered by Bethlehem Township Commissioners at their Jan. 21 meeting – a high-end gas station like a Sheetz or Wa-Wa on Nazareth Pike and a senior living facility along Freemansburg Avenue. These are basically informal presentations after which developers can determine whether to move ahead or go back to the drawing board. No action was taken.
Should Bethlehem Township refinance its $10 million debt, especially now that it is paying variable rate interest? At their Jan 21 meeting, commissioners heard a presentation from financial consulting firm PFM. The switch from fixed to variable rate of interest has already cost the township $75,000.
With a bank loan refinancing this debt, PFM estimates it can save the township $256,000. With a bond issue, the savings is estimated at $382,000. If the township authorizes PFM to proceed by late January, it estimates it can have a new loan in place within 90 days.
Medicare assigns a star rating to each nursing home, from one to five, based on health inspections, staffing and quality measures. This is often used by families to determine where to send their loved ones. Unfortunately, Gracedale’s rating is going in the wrong direction.
MLK day was the coldest day of the year so far. Despite bitter temperatures, approximately 130 people bounced along icy roads in grumbling cars for something of an annual tradition.
It’s the annual Martin Luther King breakfast at the stately Cathedral Church of the Nativity. Civil rights leader Esther Lee usually leads these things, but she was actually in the kitchen, cooking up free breakfasts.
Let’s say you wanted to buy 200 acres from someone. You’re willing to pay $2.57 million. Let’s say the Seller is willing but tells you it must first spend $15 million to knock down all the buildings located there. What’s more, the Seller is going to give you three years to get a few investors to join you. During that time, it is spending $2.2 million a year to maintain the buildings it wants to knock down. You’d say that Seller is nuts and belongs in a state hospital. That Seller, unfortunately, is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In this years municipal races, more candidates are stepping forward.
NorCo District Attorney: Bethlehem Attorney Nuria DiLuzio, announced her candidacy recently. She has served as both a full-time and part-time public defender, and is currently Chief Public Defender. She has maintained a private practice since 2001, focusing on criminal defense and family law. She is married to Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio. She is a Democrat.
The only other candidate at this stage is Republican Tom Carroll.
Ron Heckman was unanimously elected president at Northampton County Council Jan. 6 meeting. He was the only person nominated. A social worker, Heckman previously served two terms on county council. He spent another eight years under former Executive Glenn Reibman as director of Human Services. He also worked in Lehigh County’s administration.
The usually loquacious council member was uncharacteristically laconic after his election, when most Presidents deliver inaugural addresses. “I will work hard to earn your confidence,” he said to fellow council members.
In the 2017 municipal races, Northampton County elected five Democrats for the six seats up for grabs: Ron Heckman, Lori Vargo Heffner, Bill McGee and Tara Zrinski, and Lamont McClure toppling incumbent John Brown in the executive race. The only Republican to hold onto office, and just barely, was Peg Ferraro. This dominance by Democrats was a statewide phenomenon. Will the blue wave continue in this year’s races? The following seats are up for grabs.
According to Newsweek, the U.S. stock market is experiencing its worst December since 1932, during the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve has announced its fourth interest rate hike this year. In this economic climate, and in a township that has just decided to raise real estate taxes 9 percent, is now the right time to relax the investment strategy on township pensions?
Bethlehem Township Treasurer Rosalia Italiano and a Wells Fargo Bank representative think so, and advocated for a formal change at commissioners’ Dec. 17 meeting.