Instead of a COLA (cost of living adjustment), Northampton County’s 1,200 or so retirees will be getting a lump of coal this Christmas.
According to Council President John Cusick, a COLA was voted down at the most recent retirement board meeting. Retirees have no representative on the board, despite having presented three names to Executive John Brown in October. Former Executive John Stoffa had been serving retirees, but was forced to step down for health reasons.
The last time retirees received a COLA was in 2013, Stoffa’s last year in office.
Northampton County Council, at its final meeting of the year Dec. 15, voted unanimously to give the county’s new emergency management services director, Todd Weaver, a 22 percent raise.
At their final meeting of the year Dec.19, Bethlehem Township commissioners approved a no-tax-hike budget for 2017 in a 4-1 vote. Michael Hudak was the sole dissenter. But they also unanimously approved a slight increase in the sewer rate.
What does this mean? If your home is assessed at $100,000, you will continue to pay the same $709 tax bill that you paid this year. Your sewer rate will also remain the same $52.50 you pay each quarter unless you are using more than 6,000 gallons. If you do, you will see an increase of 0.00707 cents per gallon above the 6,000 gallons.
Don Cunningham, Bethlehem’s former Mayor and Lehigh County’s former executive, is now the president and CEO at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), a private nonprofit corporation that brings and retains businesses in the Lehigh Valley. More than half of its annual funding comes from Northampton and Lehigh County, much of it in the form of hotel taxes.
A divided Northampton County Council voted Dec. 1 to confirm Cathy Allen as director of administration, with a starting salary of $91,790. The vote was 6-3. Hayden Phillips, Matt Dietz and Bob Werner voted against. The remaining council members supported her.
Aside from the executive himself, the administrator is generally regarded as the most powerful position in Northampton County government.
For the past few years, Bulldogs football games have been announced from a rickety concoction of scaffolding and plywood that looks like all it needs is a good wind to become an announcer’s stand in Bethlehem City.
Frank Grillo, who is president of the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, decided something had to be done as a matter of public safety.
At their Dec. 5 meeting, commissioners agreed and unanimously authorized the township manager to enter into a license agreement under which a more permanent announcer’s box can be built.
After months of budget hearings, followed by numerous amendments, Northampton County Council voted unanimously Dec. 1 to approve Executive John Brown’s $379 million spending plan next year.
Council also proposed an ordinance setting the millage rate for next year at 11.8 mills, which means there will be no tax hike. A home assessed at $75,000 will have a $885 tax bill. The millage rate ordinance is scheduled for adoption Dec.15, the last meeting of the year.
Controversial plans for a retirement community adjacent to environmentally sensitive wetlands, in the middle of an Audubon-designated “Important Bird Area,” have come closer to reality. Bethlehem Township’s Planning Commission decided Nov. 29 to recommend approval of a tentative plan. The meeting was far less crowded than the packed houses at some earlier presentations of the plan.
In July, Northampton County killed a proposal to increase vehicle registration fees by $5 in a 6-3 vote. But Hayden Phillips, who opposed this user fee or tax, has reversed course.
Have you lost housing and do not know where to turn? Are you addicted to heroin? Do you notice that you’re increasingly forgetful? Do you suspect some child you know is being abused or neglected? Is your toddler still not speaking? Is someone you love threatening to kill himself?
This is why Northampton County’s Information and Referral Emergency Services (IRES) exists. Its phone number is 610 559-3270. Its 24 hour emergency services phone number is 610-252-9060.