Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act contains some very sweeping language. It finds that "the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society."
With little discussion, Bethlehem Township Commissioners approved two new union contracts at their April 6 meeting. By a vote of 4-0, with Pat Breslin being absent, three-year agreements were ratified with AFSCME and the Teamsters. AFSCME is the bargaining unit for around 25 employees in public works and the physical plant and information services departments. The Teamsters represent about ten clerical employees.
The agreements run from 2015-2017.
By a 3 to 1 vote, the Northampton County Elections Commission endorsed a plan April 3 to stop using a $40,000 per year private hauler of election machines. Instead, the county will rent trucks and do the job itself.
Elections officials were less than enthusiastic about the cost-saving measure. Voting Registrar Dee Rumsey told the Elections Board that her office is already short-staffed, but that she was directed to find something to cut. Eliminating the private hauler was the only solution left.
By a 6 to 2 vote, North-ampton County Council adopted an ordinance April 1 that officially establishes a rainy day fund that will segregate between 5-15 percent of the general government portion of each annual budget. Based on the current budget, that's between $6.9 and $20 million. A one mill tax increase, approved by council last year will go into this fund, which is designated officially as the committed fund balance. This measure was proposed by Hayden Phillips and Glenn Geissinger.
More than 100 people were at the April 7 grand opening of defense contractor Curtiss-Wright facility in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem's five-member Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved the addition of 48 apartments at 65 E. Elizabeth St. At their March 25 meeting, following testimony from two architects, owner Borko Milosev and star witness Darlene Heller, Bethlehem's planning director. Milosev was represented by Bethlehem Attorney Jim Preston, who thanked Heller for giving his closing argument. There was no opposition to the conversion of the top six floors of the 10-story Santander Bank building into apartments.
Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Board doles out the slots revenue from the Sands Casino every year. This year, their work might be finished early. Applications for this year's grants stand at about $1.6 million, and that's about all that the board expects to get.
Karen Collis said succinctly when the board met on March 23, "As of now, there's $88." She was referring to the amount of money in the restricted fund, used for the first and possibly only round of grants.
"Thanks for coming!" John Dally wisecracked to the applicants in the audience.
The Wildlands Conservancy has been quite successful in obtaining grant money to remove dams from Lehigh Valley streams and rivers. One of its latest projects concerns what some might call a dam on Monocacy Creek near Bridle Path Road, near the St. Francis Retreat Center.
Hanover Township Supervisors elected to take no position in response to an inquiry from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"I wouldn't call it a dam," noted Manager Jay Finnigan. "Beavers build bigger dams than that," he said of plans to remove what looks more like a speed bump.
An adult day care facility is coming to Hanover Township. Supervisors at ttheir March 24 meetingconducted a conditional use hearing for Jim Gentile's proposal to convert a 25,000 square-foot, one story building. Like any day care, there will be a drop off and pick up, along with two lanes that will go around the building.
Gentile told supervisors that three levels of licensing are required for this kind of facility. He compared its use with that of a nursing home.
You know you're in trouble when a little girl comes and speaks against what you would like to do. That's what happened recently when Traditions of America presented its latest sketch plans for a 261-home gated community for active seniors at Green Pond Marsh.