Northampton County Council has been discussing the future of its Department of Community and Economic Development, but has been doing so in the back room. Not the proverbial smoke-filled back room. These days, it’s a cyber back room.
During a presentation about hotel taxes at Northampton County Council’s Finance Committee meeting May 18, Budget Administrator Doran Hamann warned against awarding tourism grants before knowing a little more about how much revenue is coming in from the hotels this year.
DiscoverLV, which gets 68.75 percent of the hotel tax grant money, called Hamann after receiving its check for March.
“Where’s all our money?” asked President Mike Stershic.
“What do you mean? We sent you all we received,” was the answer.
While walking down the pet aisle during your weekly grocery trip, many of you may have noticed Freshpet selections for your cat and dog. But what many of you don’t know is that Freshpet is manufactured right here in the Lehigh Valley, in Hanover Township.
Freshpet first moved into 176 N. Commerce Way at Lehigh Valley Industrial Park in 2013, expanding an existing 60,000 square-foot building to over 90,000 square feet with a $25 million investment. In addition to feeding your pets, this company provides jobs for 100 people.
It’s been a long wait for Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. Since it was first established in 2012, Martin has had to ask Lehigh County Commissioners, year after year, to fund a Regional Intelligence and Investigative Center (RIIC), which is also called a Regional Crime Center. Though he made its resources available to police departments in Northampton County, Lehigh County had to pick up the tab.
Certified Public Accountant Todd Bushta has completed his 2015 audit of Hanover Township’s finances and informed supervisors at their May 10 meeting that he was unable to find any instances of noncompliance with governmental accounting standards. He offered a clean and unqualified opinion.
He also reported the township has no debt.
“I can’t remember a time when we had no debt,” marveled Chairman John N. Diacogiannis.
NorCo DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development) Director Diane Donaher, has resigned. Executive John Brown announced her departure at Council’s May 5 meeting.
One of Executive John Brown’s first appointments, Donaher spent 15 years with SkillsUSA, a nonprofit that focuses on job training school students. She also worked in Bethlehem’s DCED as a deputy director for three years. She has also been employed by United Way LV Business Education Partnership. She has even worked as a voice-over artist.
At their last meeting, Lehigh County’s Commissioners voted 8-0 to extend the Authority’s Charter until 2051. Northampton County Council unanimously followed suit at its May 5 meeting.
The Rev. Mike Dowd, a former Northampton County Council member and the board’s new chairman, told council the Airport Authority has made significant strides in achieving transparency and accountability. Starting in April, the board began to televise meetings. The budget, contracts and meeting minutes are all available online. There will even be occasional evening meetings.
This is a story about MacKenzie Cleffi, the two-year old daughter of popular Freedom HS gym teacher Michael Cleffi. Last July, MacKenzie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That’s a rare type of cancer that attacks the white blood cells.
And this is a story about Christopher Fereno, 17, a senior at Freedom who plans to study biopharmaceutical engineering at Lehigh University next year.
This is also a story about the Miller-Keystone Blood Center, which needs 450 donors every day to supply area hospitals with the blood needed to treat sick children like MacKenzie.
At a brief and sparsely-attended meeting on May 16, Bethlehem Township Commissioners approved a $5,755 payment to WatchGuard for the purchase of several body-worn cameras for the police department. Michael Hudak cautioned that only some officers will be equipped. “If it works out, we’ll look at equipping them all,” he said.
Under current law, police officers can record oral communications using a body cameras, but must tell citizens that they are being recorded when “reasonably practicable.” The devices are banned inside of a residence.
At its May 12 meeting, Bethlehem’s Planning Commission decided on new rules to streamline the review process during what in recent months have become marathon meetings, with some lasting over four hours.
If the first hearing under these new rule is any indication, the meetings will be more informative, less repetitive and quicker.
Under this new system, commissioners voted 4-0 to support plans providing for a three-story medical office building for St. Luke’s University Hospital at 834-43 Eaton Ave., at the northeast corner of Eighth Avenue.