Is Gracedale understaffed? That was a major point of discussion at Northampton County council’s April 4 meeting.
According to statistics maintained by Medicare and published online, the staffing at Gracedale is considered “average” in a nursing home that otherwise has below average grades. The nurses who work there, however, insist the facility needs more workers. They’ve been pretty vocal about it in recent NorCo Council meetings.
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure delivered his “State of the County” address March 27 at an early morning breakfast attended by about 120 county employees, business leaders and political rivals at Historic Hotel Bethlehem As the smell of bacon and hot coffee wafted through the room, a relaxed McClure spent approximately 40 minutes highlighting the accomplishments of the people who work for him. In doing so, he actually was explaining what county government does.
Northampton County now owns its Human Services building, located at 2801 Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. It had been leasing the building for $1.05 million per year. It was also paying $190,000 per year in taxes. It purchased the building for $14.5 million on March 27, exercising an option that became available this year.
For years, former Executive John Stoffa had argued for a single centralized building for 80,000 clients who often need services from several departments. His vision has become reality.
Judith Henckel is a well-known environmental activist who currently serves on Northampton County’s Open Space Advisory Board. At their March 21 meeting, council members re-appointed her to a two-year term, with no discussion. They did so despite a $1,000 fine levied by the state ethics commission against her last year for engaging in a conflict of interest as an Upper Mount Bethel Township supervisor. She had been accused of using her public office to steer public work to her son, a landscape architect. She signed some of the checks paying him. She never disclosed this relationship.
Northampton County’s nursing home, Gracedale, suffered a setback in December when the state Department of Health noted 11 patient-care deficiencies during its annual inspection. Its current Medicare rating is two stars, or below average. But there are signs things are turning around. During a revisit, the state Department of Health noted all deficiencies have been corrected. In addition, the home was complimented by the state on its reduction in the use of psychotropic drugs.
On March 6, following a lengthy meeting attended by approximately 40 elections judges, Northampton County’s Elections Commission voted 3-2 to recommend that County Council fund the ES&S ExpressVote XL over the Clear Ballot voting systems.
Northampton County Council has a Parks and Open Space Committee designed to review county park improvements, as well as farmland preservation and open space grants. These were endorsed, in principle, by voters in a 2002 referendum. Council member Tara Zrinski, the current chair of that committee, has persuaded council to rename it. As of Feb. 21, it is now known as the energy, environment and land use committee.
Zrinski advised council members that she would like to be more involved in land use issues, even though that is the domain of townships, boroughs and cities.
Northampton County’s Elections Commission met Feb. 14 to discuss, among other things, the new voting systems that the state wants in place before the 2020 presidential election. These must contain a paper trail. Governor Tom Wolf has directed all 67 counties to purchase new voting machines, but the state has only provided $14.1 million statewide to make purchases projected to cost $147 million. Northampton County’s share is $342,000.
Northampton County’s Elections Commission met Feb. 14 to discuss, among other things, the new voting systems the state wants in place before the presidential election. These must contain a paper trail. Governor Tom Wolf has directed all 67 counties to purchase new voting machines, but the state has only provided $14.1 million statewide to make purchases projected to cost $147 million. Northampton County’s share is just $342,000.
In January, the state Department of Health released its annual inspection of Gracedale, Northampton County’s nursing home. It cites 11 deficiencies directly related to resident care. Medicare now lists the home as a two-star, or below average, nursing facility.