Lehigh Valley is on the verge of doing away with cash bail, if the enthusiasm level in the Lehigh County Commissioner’s chamber is a predictor. Proponents of the measure spoke Sept. 14 to what seemed to be a very supportive group of commissioners and county administrative officials.
Allentown resident Julie Thomases said, “We are here to make a case for doing away with cash bail for non-violent and low-risk offenders, as has Northampton County, Philadelphia and other counties, cities and states.
Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez responded to criticism of the apparent lack of enforcement of the new ordinance restricting the use of private residences as short-term rentals Sept. 18 at the city council’s meeting.
“Effective this weekend,” said Donchez, “there will be an increase in monitoring and enforcement of short-term lodging facilities throughout the city. We will now have on-call and proactive monitoring of our short-term lodging ordinance on Thursday and Friday evenings, as well as on Saturday and Sunday.”
Lehigh County Commissioners, officials and citizens got their first look at the proposed budget for 2019 last week when County Executive Phillips Armstrong presented his first budget since assuming office. After a visual presentation of supporting charts and documents, Armstrong gave the hefty 488-page budget to Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty.
To make the proposed $506.1 million budget (themed “Back to the Future”) balance, Armstrong resurrected the 2015 millage rate of 3.79 to meet projected needs. “This is the budget that meets the needs of the future,” said Armstrong.
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong answered his own rhetorical question, “What Do My Lehigh County Tax Dollars Pay For?”
•Law and Order: Courts, Jail, District Attorney, Sheriff, Public Defender, Coroner
•Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation
•County Infrastructure including, parks, trails, the Velodrome and historic sites, Coca-Cola Park, Trexler Nature Preserve, emergency management, the 9-1-1 Center and farmland preservation
Two new ordinances were scheduled to be voted on by Bethlehem City Council Sept. 4 but one, an amendment to the fireworks ordinance was pulled to allow council to reconcile differences on the permitted hours for fireworks.
The second bill, a $2 million general obligation note for improvement at the Bethlehem Golf Club on Illicks Mill Road, got preliminary or first reading approval from the council, but over the objection of councilwomen Dr. Paige Van Wirt and Olga Negrón.
Residents packed the city council’s chambers last week to hear that the recent law passed by Bethlehem’s legislative body to control the phenomenon of private homes being turned into short-term rentals for a constantly shifting population is not working.
Bethlehem City Solicitor William Leeson explained that there is a pending lawsuit against the City of Bethlehem challenging the validity of the ordinance. He said this has effectively put enforcement on hold until that case has been adjudicated – a process that, if appealed, could take years.
“A ginger cat called out to me one morning on my walk to work,” said Julie Vitale, tears never far from her eyes.
Vitale, a Bethlehem resident, was speaking Aug. 21 to Bethlehem City Council urging the city to adopt a TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) policy. She was describing an incident that happened in Allentown, but was telling her story hoping that it would emphasize the plight of feral cats in Bethlehem.
“This is my 27th year in corrections,” said Warden Janine Donate when asked by Commissioner Nathan Brown to address the board of commissioners Aug 22. She is currently the warden of the Lehigh County Jail.
Donate had just been introduced by Lehigh County Executive Philips Armstrong as someone of whom he is proud; someone who has been “coming up from our own ranks.”
Lehigh County Commissioners approved their 2019–23 Capital Plan Aug. 8. The plan sets the investment in capital projects through 2023. Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty sponsored the plan. He said the $129.1 million plan is higher than previous years because it contains about $73 million for the planned Cedarbrook renovation.
In other business, the commissioners reappointed William McQuilken of Lynn Township to the Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Board.
Lehigh County Commissioners gave preliminary approval for the 2019-20 Capital Plan July 25. In gross numbers, the plan calls for a five-year grand total expenditure of $129,107,334.
The first reading of the plan passed 8–0. Commissioner Brad Osborne was absent.
Some big-ticket expenses being funded in 2019 include replacement of the voting system - $3.5 million; the Coplay to Northampton Bridge - $5 million; courthouse upgrades - $1.06 million.