Provisions of the Elections Code are strictly followed in every Pennsylvania election. Unfortunately for Northampton County elections officials, another law raised its ugly head in the Nov. 5 municipal election. Murphy’s Law, the epigram that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, was in full force during the County’s roll out of a brand new voting system called The Express Vote XL.
Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar, visited Northampton County on Thursday to present a $341,970 check to help pay for the $2.9 million Express Vote XL voting system approved by County Council in May. The County intends to use this system, which combines a 32-inch touch screen with a voter-verifiable paper trail, in November’s election.
After years of debate, lengthy meetings and several plan revisions, Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted over a year ago to approve an active senior community at Green Pond Country Club. But if you drive by, you’ll see no homes being built.
Bethlehem Township’s manager, Doug Bruce, unveiled a proposed budget $19 million budget for next year at commissioners’ Oct. 21 meeting. The good news? His spending plan seeks no tax hike. The bad news? The township is deficit spending. To balance the books, the township will spend $1.77 million of its rainy day fund. Bruce projects there still will be a $2.97 million fund balance at the end of next year, but warns this structural imbalance will ultimately result in a tax hike.
Critics like to call warehouses big boxes. Developers like to call them fulfillment centers. Whatever name you use, they have gobbled up much of the Lehigh Valley’s open space. Simultaneously, they’ve increased truck traffic on roads unable to handle the load. Bethlehem Township had to impose a tax hike last year to completely rebuild Brodhead Road, which truck traffic reduced to a washboard. Once Allen Township’s FedEx is in full swing, there will be more traffic snarls and ruined roads.
Northampton County Council voted 6-1 Oct. 17 to approve up to $75 million in bonds to refinance about $61 million in debt. The sole No vote came from Peg Ferraro (by phone). Voting Yes were council members Ron Heckman, Bob Werner, John Cusick, Matt Dietz, Tara Zrinski and Kevin Lott (by phone). Council members Bill McGee and Lori Vargo-Heffner were absent.
Did you know that private sector workers have more workplace protections than our police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, road maintenance workers, and other public employees in Pennsylvania? That’s a question State Rep. Patrick Harkins has asked his Harrisburg colleagues.
Northampton County broke ground on its first real forensic center Sept. 12. The facility will be located at the Gracedale campus, next to the 911 Center. Currently, Coroner Zach Lysek has no morgue and operates out of a small office at Louise Moore Park.
On Sept. 10, John Pequeno’s Upper Nazareth home, at 3300 block of Rising Sun Court, was destroyed by fire. No human lives were lost, but Pequeno did lose a pup named Marshall, whom he referred to as his “fur baby.” “The rest of what was lost was mostly just stuff,” he said. Nine different fire departments ultimately responded. Pequeno has been so touched by their heroic efforts that he organized a fundraiser for what he calls the Rising Sun Fire Brigade.
Northampton County Council reversed itself Sept. 5 on a pay raise for the county’s probation officers. All nonunion workers received a two percent pay hike at the beginning of the year, but probation officers were in limbo because they were in the middle of decertifying their union. That union was decertified in late January. County administrators proposed a new pay scale, identical to the old pay scale, for probation officers. This included a 2 percent increase. Probation officers wanted it made retroactive to the beginning of the year, like the rest of the county’s nonunion workforce.