Following a four-day trial, a Northampton County jury found Royce Atkins, 23, guilty yesterday in a fatal hit-and-run that killed nine-year old Darius Condash. The accident itself occurred almost exactly one year ago when Condash, accompanied by an older friend and cousin, crossed busy Schoenersville Road - a five lane highway - at night. But this case was about much more than the actual verdict. The question to me was whether money buys justice. In this case, the answer is No.
When Hanover Township supervisors met Oct. 25, a brightly lit firetruck was parked nearby. There were no emergencies, but a volunteer firefighter was running tests on the township’s new 100-foot ladder truck. “We just put it into service last night,” he beamed. That truck came with a $1.2 million price tag.
Hanover Township just wrote a check. There was no line of credit or bond with accompanying debt service. In fact, the township has been debt-free for over a year.
Following every census, Pennsylvania’s top legislative leaders huddle to slice up state and Congressional districts. This is called redistricting and reapportionment. But instead of drawing up compact boundaries that preserve communities as much as possible, our legislators have drawn up districts that make little sense unless the goal is to protect an incumbent in office.
A recent investigation into the salaries paid to Northampton County’s nine law clerks reveals that they are being paid 32 percent above the annual mean salary for law clerks in Pennsylvania. This is leading them to make careers out of what traditionally is a one or two year job. Since 2010, they have been paid $110,225 on top of their salaries to process no-fault divorce decrees, even though that is already a part of their job description. Some are also moonlighting for attorneys who practice before Northampton County judges.
What is a law clerk?
For years, Gracedale has been trying to sell the licenses for its 37 excess beds. It finally sealed a deal with Wyndmoore Care Center for $700,000. Payment is to be received on or before Oct. 30. In addition to the revenue, this sale paves the way to higher Medicaid reimbursement rates when 90 percent or more of the licensed beds are filled. Gracedale is now at 98 percent capacity.
While Bethlehem Township is pondering a no-tax-hike budget next year, hold off on the celebrations. Manager Melissa Shafer warned commissioners at their Oct. 17 meeting about something that could have a very negative impact on the township’s New Jersey commuters. It could also delay the flow of tax revenue next year. Shafer is referring to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s proposed termination of a Pa.-NJ reciprocal tax deal.
Without offering specifics, GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that the Nov. 8 election “is going to be rigged.” On the campaign trail, he has said the only way he can lose Pennsylvania is if there is “cheating,” so “[w]e have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.”
Is medical marijuana coming to Hanover Township? Supervisors voted unanimously at their Oct. 11 meeting to establish zones for medical marijuana facilities. But hold off on those brownie recipes. Supervisors will zone for it, but that’s a far cry from it happening anytime soon.
Steve Salvesen asked why the township is zoning for something prohibited by federal law. Solicitor Jim Broughal said the federal government has taken no action against states that now permit medical marijuana or, for that matter, recreational marijuana.
At a brief meeting of Bethlehem’s five-person Planning Commission on Oct. 13, a vacant and unpaved lot owned by Dr. Alvin Kanofsky, and located at 32 E. Third St. That’s the first step in a lengthy process that could ultimately result in a city seizure.
Aside from the press and city staff, the only person present was Dr. Kanofsky. He represented himself.
On Oct.13, Northampton County Council conducted the first of four budget hearings scheduled for Executive John Brown’s proposed 2017 Budget. So far, there’s little indication that part-time elected officials plan any big changes to a $379 million spending plan that lays no one off and raises no taxes. But it’s a great opportunity for council members to meet the people who actually make the wheels of government turn. They always have insights about their departments. Here are a few brief highlights: