Imagine a time when Bethlehem Township police officers had no cell phones, no two-way radios, and in some cases, only parts of a uniform. A time when police officers had to buy their own weapons. Or when officers on patrol had to swing by the municipal building periodically to see if a light was blinking at a nearby pole. If it was, that meant there was a call. There was no 911. No dispatch.
One of the very first things John Cusick did after being elected president of Northampton County Council was urge fellow council members to adopt a resolution authorizing a nonprofit study of Gracedale, the county-owned nursing home. The report is in, but was greeted with skepticism at council’s Feb. 18 meeting.
A 501c3 nonprofit is one that is exempt from federal income tax. Persons who make donations are able to deduct their contributions. It is barred from involvement in political campaigns.
Mother Nature has intervened, albeit temporarily, in the controversy over a proposed active senior golf course community located next to Bethlehem Township’s Green Pond Marsh. An ice storm has delayed the meeting at which commissioners were scheduled to decide on waivers and deferrals sought at what is now a 229-home development. The planning commission, at their Jan. 25 meeting, recommended approval, but commissioners have final say. They will now make their call at the March 7 meeting.
Deed restrictions prohibiting commercial or industrial use have stymied FedEx’s efforts to build a $335 million megahub for its delivery service in Allen Township for the past two years. This legal monkey wrench has also prevented Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority from making its final, $7.1 million payment, on a $26 million award entered against the authority when it condemned the land in the ‘90s. But instead of walking away from the Lehigh Valley, Fed Ex is being lured by come hither looks being cast in its direction by Bethlehem.
Obviously, $2.1 million is a lot of money. So when Northampton County Executive John Brown told County Council at its Feb. 4 meeting that it only took $2.1 million to keep its nursing home Gracedale afloat last year, that’s still a lot of money. But the good news is that the county had budgeted $7.7 million. So Gracedale beat the budget forecast by $5.6 million.
According to Brown, the nursing home is moving in the right direction.
Pay-to-play and old fashioned political corruptions have been big stories in recent months, especially in Allentown and Reading. A bit of extortion here. A bit of bid-rigging there. In Reading, an honest-to-goodness bribe. Given this climate, few noticed what was going on in Lower Saucon Township. That’s where one corporation attempted to buy an election, and very nearly succeeded.
Northampton County will generate about $2 million in hotel tax revenue this year, based on a four percent hotel room rental surcharge. How will it be spent? Most will go to Discover Lehigh Valley, a bi-county tourism bureau that also helps fund the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. In addition, the SteelStacks performing arts center and PBS-39’s broadcast studio will collect $270,000, the last payment in a $1 million commitment made by council several years ago. The rest of the money, nearly $500,000, was awarded in the form of hotel tax grants at council’s Jan.
Irene Skelly has good reason to like Bethlehem. On Jan. 19, Bethlehem police nabbed a suspect in the gunpoint robbery of her South New Street store, Pat’s News Stand, earlier that day. And at its Jan. 27 meeting, Bethlehem’s Zoning Hearing Board unanimously agreed to allow her to continue operating a five-room boarding house next door, located atop a tavern she owns.
By a 6-3 vote, Northampton County Council voted Jan. 7 to authorize a study, at no cost to the county, of the benefits and pitfalls of turning the county nursing home, Gracedale, into a tax exempt nonprofit corporation, commonly known as a 501c3. Gracedale’s administrator, Premier Healthcare Resources, will prepare the report, but has been specifically instructed that it the possibility of a sale to a private, for profit corporation, is off limits.
At the brief Jan. 18 meeting, Bethlehem Township’s Board of Commissioners decided it’s time both to adopt a public comment policy and address continued participation in the Bethlehem Area Public Library. Those discussions occurred at the end of a meeting in which commissioners raced through three pages of agenda items with virtually no public discussion. This is because the township failed to post its back-up documents online. Those were made available the next day.