Historic Hotel Bethlehem was the venue for Executive John Brown’s State of the County address on a blustery March 2 morning. The event included a free breakfast, which usually means stale croissants and weak coffee. Not at Hotel Bethlehem.
Over 150 guests were treated to mountains of scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries, along with a wide variety of juices, coffee and tea. Brown spoke for nearly a full hour, which is the longest speech he’s given as county executive.
Many Northampton County employees who work at the jail and at Gracedale already punch timeclocks. But John Brown wants to use them countywide, including at the courthouse and at the Human Services building. HR Director Amy Trapp has argued they will reduce paperwork, save time and even be beneficial for employees in the long run. But employees resent them. They find the practice degrading, and feel that being compelled to supply their fingerprint for a biometric device is an infringement of their privacy.
Following a four-day trial, a Northampton County jury found Royce Atkins, 23, guilty in November in a fatal hit-and-run that killed 9-year old Darius Condash. The accident itself occurred almost exactly one year before when Condash, accompanied by an older friend and cousin, crossed busy Schoenersville Road - a five-lane highway - at night. Atkins hit and killed Condash, but failed to stop. He said nothing, waiting for police to find him. But in phone conversations from jail to his father and girlfriend, he said too much.
On Feb. 22, Bethlehem Township Commissioners conducted the first of what will likely be several public hearings concerning a controversial retirement community next to environmentally sensitive wetlands known as Green Pond Marsh.
Pat Breslin is in his final year as a Bethlehem Township commissioner. He rarely speaks during meetings. But he gave WAEB-AM790 radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh an earful during a recent interview about township finances.
Northampton County’s 911 dispatchers fielded 97,000 emergency calls last year, 67 percent of which were from cell phones. There were even 161 emergency text messages. There were also 296,000 non-emergency calls.
One of Bethlehem Township’s most heavily traveled roads may soon be getting even more traffic. Truck traffic, too.
On Jan. 19, Executive John Brown told Northampton County Council that he expected Gracedale, the county-owned nursing home, to finish 2016 about $800,000 in the black. But at council’s Feb. 3 meeting, as the picture becomes clearer, Brown now says the net profit will only be about $200,000. This would still be the first time since 2007 that the facility turned a profit.
Nearly every year, Bethlehem Township Commissioners grumble about funding the Bethlehem Area Public Library. Its operations are financed by Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township, Hanover Township and Fountain Hill Borough. Bethlehem Township has 9,749 cardholders, including 528 new cardholders in 2015. That translates to 41 percent of the township’s population.
Late last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the host fee that casinos must pay each year, concluding that it violates the state constitution’s uniformity clause. Though the state legislature was given until Jan. 26 to enact a legislative fix, it has thus far been unable to do so.
Three state senators sought and were granted an extension until May 26. But Justice David Wecht dissented. “This court should not, and I daresay properly cannot, ease the burdens of democracy by suspending the Pennsylvania Constitution at the first sign of political gridlock,” he wrote.