Northampton County Executive John Brown warns that the county is in "fiscally troubled waters" that he inherited when he took office.
In a rare report to council at its Feb. 19 meeting, Brown pointed out that revenue from real estate taxes remains flat. Though additional revenues will come in as a result of one mill tax hike approved late last year, those monies will be set aside in order to build up the rainy day found.
Brown is also projecting a $9 million drop this year in inter-governmental revenue provided by the state and federal government to fund human services.
Along party lines, Northampton County Council has confirmed Emmaus attorney Ryan Durkin as the county's new solicitor. He was nominated by Executive John Brown to replace Bethlehem attorney Vic Scomillio, who resigned so he could focus on his race for judge. All five Republican's supported Durkin's appointment at their Feb. 19 meeting, while all four Democrats were opposed.Hayden Phillips, who said he is proud to be referred to as a "conservative tea party member," is ironically often the swing vote for Democrats. But during Durkin's confirmation hearing on Feb. 18, he supported Durkin.
A bipartisan effort that would give Northampton County Council more oversight over executive spending has failed. On Feb. 5, seven members of council voted for an ordinance proposed by conservative Tea Party member Hayden Phillips that would require council approval for any contracts over $25,000. "I just think it's better government," explained Republican Seth Vaughn.
The only council members opposed were Glenn Geissinger and Mat Benol, who have been Brown's most ardent supporters.
Bethlehem Township's police force is one officer short, but not as the result of illness or injury. At their Feb. 16 meeting, commissioners voted to terminate Officer Dan Barsnica. The vote was unanimous except for Pat Breslin, who was absent. Their vote followed an executive session. Commissioners declined to say what prompted their decision.
Once every month, department heads provide a monthly report to Bethlehem Township Commissioners. They provide a perspective from the people who actually do the work. Here are some December highlights.
This spring, Bethlehem Township's municipal parks will be a place for the local athletic association, known as the Bulldogs, to host baseball, softball and soccer games. But it will also be a place to sport a 454 Raging Bull revolver.
Resident Glenn Krier, who is with the Second Amendment Committee of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party, warned Commissioners that "[y]ou'll probably see people walking through the parks, carrying firearms."
Like the recent snowstorm that never was, the Jan. 28 meeting of Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board bore all the signs of a very long night. Elias Market, located at 3131 Linden St., was on the agenda.
Though a Zoning Hearing Board decision allowing an expansion had been affirmed by three different courts, opponents sought and obtained an enforcement notice that would essentially require the busy store to remove part of its asphalt parking lot.
Bethlehem City Controller David DiGiacinto, the fiscal watchdog who died unexpectedly on Jan. 26, was laid to rest Saturday. Funeral services were conducted by Father Abraham Ha at St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church at a Mass attended by more than 300 people.
Despite the sudden nature of DiGiacinto's death, a reading from Ecclesiastes told mourners there is a time for everything, "a time to be born, and a time to die."
Sitting atop the Aaron Street hill is what Dionely Hance and her two daughters can now call "our castle and our keep." Nestled among other homes is a quiet neighborhood with South Mountain as a backdrop, it offers a spectacular view of the Southside, especially the casino. That home is there thanks to Habitat Lehigh Valley's Women Build program. The home was dedicated in early December, just in time for Christmas.
Most of us know our mayor or township supervisors. We see city, borough and township government every day. They provide the police who patrol the streets and the workers who fix those streets after harsh winter weather. But few know the details of county government.