Over the weekend, as the 34th Musikfest came to an end, Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio had just one word to describe it - “Great!” Over the 10-day festival, over 1.2 million people visited the Christmas City. Only 36 people were arrested, mostly for public drunkenness. But 309 miles away in Charlottesville, Va., a “Unite the Right” rally ended in tragedy. Three people are dead. Dozens more are injured. A president first said “both sides” are to blame, then blamed white supremacists and the KKK, and finally returned to saying that “both sides” are responsible.
Sharon’s Day Care owner and operator Sharon Ballek, age 61, has pleaded guilty to charges filed in connection with the April 1, 2016, death of a three-month-old infant who had been entrusted to Ballek’s care. The baby died on her first day at the now closed Lehigh Township facility.
Northampton area man Gregory Graf, 56, is currently serving a life sentence on charges that he lured his stepdaughter, Jessica Padgett, to his home in November 2014 so he could kill her and then film himself having sexual relations with her dead body. For five days after this murder, he even participated in a search for her, knowing all along that he had buried her body behind the shed of his Allen Township home.
National Night Out, held on the first Tuesday of August, is a chance for police and other first responders to get together with the local residents they serve and show them that they all care.
At a special meeting July 31, Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted 4-0 to appoint Howard Kutzler, 52, to its five person board. He is well known in Bethlehem Township government since he worked there for 14 years, both as a planning director and as township manager.
Kutzler is filling the vacancy created by Kim Jenkins when she resigned, for personal reasons, as a third ward commissioner after just 18 months in office. Kutzler will only succeed her until the end of the year.
Back in the 1980s, Bethlehem decided that its neighborhood near Liberty HS and Moravian College needed some TLC. The city itself made public improvements that included street reconstruction, utility upgrades, new sidewalks and street trees. In addition, city workers went went door to door to promoting a rehab program for homeowners using CDBG grant money. Fast forward to 2017, and this same neighborhood is declining again. Without analyzing the reason for this blight, Bethlehem plans to remedy it with a special tax incentive called a LERTA. At best, this feel good measure will do no harm.
Wesley United Methodist Church, located at 2540 Center St. in Bethlehem, is gearing up for its 2017 Backpack Festival scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. School supplies for elementary school-aged children, along with new socks and underwear, can be dropped off at the church.
Though Bethlehem officials are unsure why the quality of housing stock is beginning to deteriorate in some north Bethlehem neighborhoods, they are hopeful that a real estate tax incentive will lead to a revitalization. Housing and Community Planner Allyson Lehr pitched this program, called a LERTA, to Northampton County Council Aug. 3.
Pennsylvania’s incarceration rate was the highest among Northeast states in 2014. But housing someone in a county jail costs money. It costs $40,000 a year in a county jail, according to the County Commissioner Association. Statewide, 65 percent of these inmates are there for a substance abuse disorder. Another 10-30 percent suffer from mental illness. For these people, there are community-based alternatives to incarceration that cost less than half what it does to jail someone And that in turn has led to the creation of problem-solving courts.