Judith Henckel is a well-known environmental activist who currently serves on Northampton County’s Open Space Advisory Board. At their March 21 meeting, council members re-appointed her to a two-year term, with no discussion. They did so despite a $1,000 fine levied by the state ethics commission against her last year for engaging in a conflict of interest as an Upper Mount Bethel Township supervisor. She had been accused of using her public office to steer public work to her son, a landscape architect. She signed some of the checks paying him. She never disclosed this relationship.
Northampton County’s nursing home, Gracedale, suffered a setback in December when the state Department of Health noted 11 patient-care deficiencies during its annual inspection. Its current Medicare rating is two stars, or below average. But there are signs things are turning around. During a revisit, the state Department of Health noted all deficiencies have been corrected. In addition, the home was complimented by the state on its reduction in the use of psychotropic drugs.
On March 6, following a lengthy meeting attended by approximately 40 elections judges, Northampton County’s Elections Commission voted 3-2 to recommend that County Council fund the ES&S ExpressVote XL over the Clear Ballot voting systems.
Northampton County Council has a Parks and Open Space Committee designed to review county park improvements, as well as farmland preservation and open space grants. These were endorsed, in principle, by voters in a 2002 referendum. Council member Tara Zrinski, the current chair of that committee, has persuaded council to rename it. As of Feb. 21, it is now known as the energy, environment and land use committee.
Zrinski advised council members that she would like to be more involved in land use issues, even though that is the domain of townships, boroughs and cities.
Northampton County’s Elections Commission met Feb. 14 to discuss, among other things, the new voting systems that the state wants in place before the 2020 presidential election. These must contain a paper trail. Governor Tom Wolf has directed all 67 counties to purchase new voting machines, but the state has only provided $14.1 million statewide to make purchases projected to cost $147 million. Northampton County’s share is $342,000.
Northampton County’s Elections Commission met Feb. 14 to discuss, among other things, the new voting systems the state wants in place before the presidential election. These must contain a paper trail. Governor Tom Wolf has directed all 67 counties to purchase new voting machines, but the state has only provided $14.1 million statewide to make purchases projected to cost $147 million. Northampton County’s share is just $342,000.
In January, the state Department of Health released its annual inspection of Gracedale, Northampton County’s nursing home. It cites 11 deficiencies directly related to resident care. Medicare now lists the home as a two-star, or below average, nursing facility.
Gracedale rating concerns continue Current director reviews 11 deficiencies and how they are being addressed
Northampton County Council’s Feb. 7 agenda was empty. Council members were apparently looking forward to a 15-minute meeting. A negative report card from the state Department of Health concerning Gracedale could be discussed later. Council suddenly reversed course after criticism on social media. That health inspection was discussed in detail.
Executive Lamont McClure started by saying he regrets not having fired Premier, the nursing home’s administrator, last year. Premier was still Gracedale’s manager at the time of a health inspection that resulted in 11 deficiencies.
Two new sketch plans were considered by Bethlehem Township Commissioners at their Jan. 21 meeting – a high-end gas station like a Sheetz or Wa-Wa on Nazareth Pike and a senior living facility along Freemansburg Avenue. These are basically informal presentations after which developers can determine whether to move ahead or go back to the drawing board. No action was taken.
Should Bethlehem Township refinance its $10 million debt, especially now that it is paying variable rate interest? At their Jan 21 meeting, commissioners heard a presentation from financial consulting firm PFM. The switch from fixed to variable rate of interest has already cost the township $75,000.
With a bank loan refinancing this debt, PFM estimates it can save the township $256,000. With a bond issue, the savings is estimated at $382,000. If the township authorizes PFM to proceed by late January, it estimates it can have a new loan in place within 90 days.