Monday, December 22, 2014

DA Schedules News Conference About Scheuermann Homicide

District Attorney John Morganelli will provide an update today into the PSP investigation of the Richard Scheuermann homicide. Police officers in both Easton and Palmer Tp are currently under administrative leave as that matter is resolved

Northampton County Says Good-Bye to Frank Flisser

Flisser before his last Council meeting
Marie Cunningham, Doris Lombardo and Frank Flisser are names you'll rarely see in the daily newspapers. But for decades, they have been some of the spokes that keep the wheel of Northampton County government going. But after one year of Executive John Brown, more than 120 of them will be gone. This is over twice the average over the past five years. Brown had promised to provide final numbers at Thanksgiving, but never did.

Frank Flisser's last day was on Friday, December 19. He left the way he operated during his 37 years as County Council's only Clerk. Quietly. No parties. On his final day, as the seconds ticked away, he had just four cardboard boxes to take home with him. Occasionally, the phone would ring, and he'd say good-bye to one of the many people he worked with over the years.

Q. You were born and raised on Bethlehem's South Side, and grew up with troublemakers like district Attorney John Morganelli and Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. Did that experience on the south side help? 

My father was the Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Windish Church. For 31 years, I had the honor and privilege to live on Bethlehem's south side. I learned true old world values from people who came to this country from Yugoslavia and Hungary It gave me a good base for my value system.

Q. Who were council's best sparring partners, Ron Angle and Lamont McClure, Ron Angle and Charles Dertinger?

I'd have to say Bill Moran and Jim Hemstreet. They loved to spar with each other, were good at it, and and each was iconic.

Q. In all your years as Clerk, is there any single meeting that stood out as the wildest and craziest of them all?

I'd have to say the bond hearing in 2000, when a $110 million bond issue was approved at 2 am.

Q. That's the meeting in which Ron Angle's name plate was stolen, and found later in a urinal. Now that you're leaving, will you admit you're the thief?

No (laughing), I think [Jim] Hickey did it.

Q. Although you serve at the pleasure of council, you lasted 37 years. What advice would you have for your successor? 

Be honest. Treat everybody the same, including members of the public. Be open and direct.

Q. Having seen a home rule form of government for 37 years, do you think it's time to go back to the commissioner form of government?

Maybe a Charter Study Commission should be convened.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: Still No Word About Dresden Firebombing

This is the second in a series of entries from my father's recently-discovered dairy. He kept it about a week after his release from a German POW camp. This second post, like the first, is strictly present tense. Yet just three months before, my dad and writer Kurt Vonnegut had ringside seats, as POWs, to the American and RAF firebombing of Dresden - Florence of the Elbe.

POWs hid in meat lockers underneath a slaughterhouse during this incineration. One POW blurted out, "I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight." I can't help but think that was my dad. That was his humor.

In a public radio interview, Vonnegut speaks of a conversation he had with my father, some twenty years later.

"What did you learn?" Vonnegut asks.

"I will never believe my government again."

Churchill, who had advocated the firebombing, was knighted.

5/18/45

We moved over to the other compound today. That seems to be the chief benefit accruing to those who have been deloused. The rooms here are much cleaner and better equipped. We eat three times per day restaurant style and the shilly (chile?) is both good and thick - a happy set of circumstances not found readily in Germany. We spent most of the day getting our loot in order and this afternoon learned to our gratification that we were scheduled to move out. About an hour later a sergeant from the 1st Rangers division put in an appearance and announced that trucks were on their way to bring us either to Riesa or Leipzig where there are concentrations of former P.O.W.'s. I had no idea the sight of a G.I. would be so sensational. Needless to say, the limeys hogged him before any of his own countrymen had a chance to learn much from him concerning the good old U.S.A. Well, the trucks finally arrived and after the normal red tape we piled into them and took off. Approximately two hours later we found ourselves in Riesa. Temporary quarters were provided for us in some Jerry barracks. We are supposed to move in the morning to some other place in town where there are more G.I.'s. Our present barracks aren't at all bad except for the lack of anything soft upon which to lay our weary bones. There are some limeys here who have been waiting to get out for almost a month. It seems that Stalag W-B was liberated by the Russians on April 23.

Blogger's Note: This was originally published on 12/12/07.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Santa's Coming to Courthouse Rally on Monday

LV Labor Council Prez Gregg Potter reports that there will be an "important rally" on Monday morning, 8:30 am, at the Easton courthouse. It's aimed at NorCo Executive John Brown, depicted by Potter as a Scrooge. But that depiction is inaccurate. At least Scrooge paid his workers.

Executive John Brown, when he first took office, said he was "here to serve." He tried cozying up to employees, even attending a few union meetings. But he has attempted to balance the County books on their collective backs. Not only has he reduced health care benefits, but he wants to reduce other benefits like vacation and sick time as well. There were no raises for anyone. He has reduced staffing to dangerous levels, especially at the jail. Employees have left in drove, and morale is at an all-time low.

While reducing services to the public, Brown has tried to engage in government by consultant. He tried hiring a $700k business consultant, and did get away with hiring a cost control consultant without bothering to follow the Administrative Code. He is also forcing taxpayers to pay for his spinmeister. She prepared "All Hail Dear Leader" newsletters while he ignored the press and Council. Distant and nontransparent, he even posted armed guards outside his office before a news conference.

He is indisputably the worst Executive Northampton County has ever seen. Instread of standing up to him, Republicans on Council have more or less been the third wheel on the bicycle he is riding over a cliff.

For these and several other reasons, the one and only Santa Claus will be there. Brown, who has apparently been designated a naughty boy, is getting a bag of coal. I hope he drops off a piece of that coal with Easton Mayor Sal Panto, who like Brown, is balancing his budget on the backs of those who can't afford it, whole embracing developers like Mark Mulligan. .

Members of AFSCME will also make a contribution to five different non-profits who provide food and basic needs to the residents of Easton and Northampton County.

Friday, December 19, 2014

PPL Giving $5,000 For New Bethany Food Bank

On Monday, PPL Electric Utilities will present New Bethany Ministries with a $5,000 donation for its emergency food pantry as part of a $250,000 commitment this winter to help people in need.

“We are grateful to PPL for their demonstrated commitment to helping people in need,” said New Bethany’s Executive Director, Diane Elliott. “Many families are struggling, and this gift will help us continue providing critical services to the community."

In 2013, New Bethany Ministries distributed 4,292 food baskets from its emergency food pantry, representing 70,389 meals. The agency reported a 149% increase in the number of children receiving food from the pantry and a 336% increase in the number of elderly utilizing the pantry from the previous year.

Celebrating its 29th year, New Bethany Ministries provides assistance to families affected by poverty, hunger and homelessness; and individuals with mental illness. For more information about New Bethany’s programs, call 610-691-5602 or visit www.newbethanyministries.org.

Rosado Settles Dispute With Allentown Schools ... For Now

Jose Rosado, erstwhile principal of the Allentown School District's Alternative School program,resigned last night in  deal that guaranteed him back pay and other benefits. It also leaves the door open for him to pursue a federal lawsuit.  He released a statement claiming total vindication.

"This settlement vindicates me and allows the option to pursue our claims in Federal Court where the process will be fair. My Federal Complaint will be filed soon and the whole story will be told in Federal Court.

"As an educator, I have always believed that our community is only as vibrant and viable as the quality of education our students receive in our schools."

NorCo Council: Workhorses, Showhorses and No-Show Horses of 2014


Parsons gives me the hairy eyeball
Who are Northampton County Council's workhorses, show horses and no-showhorses in 2014?What is their attendance, including Committee participation, where most of the real work is done? What is the attendance like for four brand new members of Council, finishing their rookie year?

This is my annual report card, something I have done since 2006.

Northampton County Council met 30 times last year, including four budget hearings.

In addition, its committees met 30 times. Each Council member is encouraged to attend those meetings, regardless whether he or she is a voting member. The committees that do meet are an indication of what issues concern Council members.

As might be expected, Finance and Personnel head that list. They each met nine times last year. Human Services was a hot Committee, too, meeting six times. Other committees doing a lot of heavy lifting were Economic Development (7), Open Space (4) and Capital Projects (3).

But some committees never got rolling. Despite the need to address regionalization and shared services like 911, Peg Ferraro failed to call a single Intergovernmental Committee Hearing this year. Also, though it is more than clear that both the Administrative Code and Home Rule Charter are in dire need of an overhaul, Mat Benol only conducted one meeting for what is now being called the Courts and Corrections Committee.

Below is a table showing attendance at 60 Committee meetings, regular meetings and budget hearings during 2014. As was the case last year, Scott Parsons is Northampton County Council's Workhorse of the Year. He will receive a Major Award from Lehigh Valley Ramblings at the beginning of next year.

Scott is a bue collar worker who worried he might be late or miss committee meetings. But in his years on Council, he has set the pace. He was at an amazing 58 meetings last year, giving him an attendance percentage of 97%. Though he is still ugly, his devotion to the County is inspiring.

We have a tie for #2. Democrat Bob Werner and Republican Glenn Geissinger both attended 54 of 59 meetings, giving them both a 92% attendance. Though they miss out on Parson's Major Award, they both make the Dean's list, just as soon as I find out who the Dean is.

The Middle of the Pack is reserved for Ken Kraft and Peg Ferraro. Kraft and Ferraro have good attendance, but not great. They'll have to work harder if they expect to receive a Major Award from this blog. I don't just hand them out.

D students include Mat Benol and Seth Vaughn. They were elected to serve, not miss Planning Commission meetings like Vaughn regularly does, or fail to conduct more than one single Courts and Corrections Committee hearing, as is the case with Benol.

Receiving an F for his 67% attendance record is Hayden Phillips. His record on Council is good and his Capital Projects Committee is innovative. But in one year, he has betrayed a complete lack of interest in many aspects of County government. For example, he failed to attend a single meeting of human services, open space  or economic development in 2014. He can be all about personal responsibility and limited government and still make time for these meetings.

My final F goes to Lamont McClure, who has failed to break 50% attendance since 2011. If I could send him to reform school, would. In his defense, I will state he did attend all but one of the budget hearings his year was understandably ill. He also did attend two committee meetings. If he wants to make a difference for struggling county workers, he needs to show up at more committee hearings.

council meetings
(30)
capital
projects
(3)
economic
dvlpmt
(7)
human
srvcs
(6)
open
space
(4)
personnel/
finance
(9)
2014 2013 2012 2011
mat benol 28 3 1 5 0 7 75% n/a n/a n/a
peg ferraro 27 1 5 5 2 9 83% 90% 85% 67%
glenn geissinger 27 2 7 5 4 9 92% n/a n/a n/a
ken kraft 27 2 6 3 0 9 80% 88% 84% n/a
lamont mcclure 28 0 0 0 1 1 50% 43% 47% 41%
scott parsons 30 2 6 6 4 9 97% 92% 89% n/a
hayden phillips 28 3 0 0 0 8 67% n/a n/a n/a
seth vaughn 27 0 4 6 0 6 72% n/a n/a n/a
bob werner 27 2 7 6 3 9 92% 90% 82% n/a

Here are my attendance reports from Here are reports from  2013, 2012, 20112010200920082007; and 2006.

Blogger's Update 3:25 pm. I recalculated my attendance records, which reveal that there was one courts and corrections committee meeting on 4/23. They also reveal that McClure was present for all but one budget hearing. 

O'Hare's WWII Diary: "We are Being Looked After Like Pet Children by the Russians"

Writer Kurt Vonnegut's letter home, written soon after his release from a POW camp, was published here early this week. Believe it or not, my dad was the real writer back then - he even kept a diary for a few days.

Unlike Vonnegut, he sheds no light on what had actually happened to him as a POW. He provides no explanation about his weight going from 150 lbs. before the war to 80 lbs. as Adolph's guest. Mum's the word. He'd stay like that the rest of his life. Vonnegut's three-page letter tells me more about my dad's POW experience than he himself ever shared.

He just drank. A lot. Especially at Christmas time. That didn't kill him. Neither did the Germans. The cigarettes did.

But for one week, my father chronicled his post-release experiences in amazing detail. Just twenty-two at the time, he was a pretty good writer himself. Occasionally, he mentions Vonnegut, who was just a "minor being" at the time. For the next few days, I'll share my dad's thoughts with you, day by day.

5/17/45

Our mangy but well-fed crew left DiHille's at noon today. We proceeded over the Elbe to Russian headquarters in the city and after much confusion - due to our ignorance of the Russian language and vice versa - we were directed to the Hitler Caserne on Konigsbage Strasse. Here we find ourselves confronted with the perpetual situation of no one knowing anything about anything. However, we are being looked after like pet children by the Russians. We have been here only four hours at the most and have already been fed twice, showered, de-loused and billeted. As near as we can gather from speaking to the limeys and G.I.'s here, we are to stay put until our troops come seeking us. Except for the anxiety that we all have concerning our parents and families, we don't give a damn how long it takes them to root us out.

I heard my first radio program since I was captured. Dannine and I went across the compound and fell in with a few Tommies who have a wireless set in their flat. We heard an A.M.G. broadcast from Hamburg. That American music certainly sounded good. The Tommies surprised us before the evening was over with a meal of spuds, meat and beans. We rejoined our crew with a full stomach and a highly satisfied mien. I don't believe I'll ever get up out of bed again. Goot nacht.

Blogger's Note: First published 12/11/07.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dunkin' Donut Drive Thru Approved on Hellertown Road


The Carlos Brothers are hungry
In a close, 3-2 vote, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board has approved a drive-through window for a franchise planned along the west side of busy Hellertown Road. During their December 17 meeting, Attorney Jim Preston successfully pressed the case for owner Dhruv Acharya. He owns another Dunkin' Donuts in Bangor, and manages three more of these popular franchises in the Poconos.

The Dunkin' Donuts franchise, located on a 10,095 sq ft lot, is located in the CL Commercial Zoning District, which permits restaurants. But Acharya needed a variance for the drive-through window. The business will be located north of the Route 78 exit onto Hellertown Road, which runs between South Bethlehem and Hellertown and is also known as Route 412. It is almost directly across the street from Commerce Center Boulevard.

Hellertown Road is undergoing a major expansion by PennDot, which is expected to continue until 2016,  The road is being widened from two to four lanes, with five lanes in places. It is also expected that there will be a medial divider separating north and south bound traffic.

Acharya and his engineer, Brian Gasda of Lehigh Engineering, both told zoners that they expect that it will be a divided highway, and they will be limited to customers coming south from South Bethlehem. They are proposing a lane that circles the proposed 2,200 sq ft building, like most drive through establishments. There will also be a separate bypass lane and 22 parking spots, well beyond the nine required.  They also plan to place buffers along the northern and southern sides of the property for the privacy of neighbors.

Only one of those neighbors was at the hearing. Francisco Sousa, who lives next door, actually has a driveway easement along this property. It had only been discovered the day before the hearing. But so long as his own parking arrangements are guaranteed, "I'm all for it."

Linda Shay Gardner worries that cars waiting for coffee at the drive through will trickle out along Hellertown Road. Acharya told her that is unlikely because their goal is always to provide service within two minutes. He pointed out that the Dunkin' Donuts standard is 150 seconds.

Gardner, however, pointed to a franchise on Schoenersville Road where the cars do stack out and only the highway. "That's dangerous," she observed, and added it would be dangerous along Hellertown Road as well.

Michael Santanasto questioned Acharya about the lighting on the drive through order sign, noting it is only 100' away from someone's home. He was told there would be no light pollution.

Bill Fitzpatrick and Jim Schantz had questions about the hours.  They were told the Donut shop may open as early as 3 am, but will be open less than 24 hours per day. They ultimately moved to approve the application, conditioned upon a thorough review by the Planning Commission. Chairman Gus Loupos joined them, but Gardner and Santanasto remained opposed.

The remaining hearings were far less controversial.

JoAnne Matthews was granted a special exception to establish an art therapy counseling office for children at her home on 1569 Kadel Drive. She explained that children who are reluctant to speak out about what bothers them can often express themselves much better by drawing.

Finally, Alfredo Carlos was granted a dimensional variance to construct a carport for his property at 1532 Siegfried Street. His brother Mario, who was with him, will do the work.

Carlos explained that nearly everyone else in his neighborhood has a carport, and his wife and daughter have been after him to build one. Last winter, he had to get up at 3 am to shovel his wife and daughter out, and his wife cries about the lack of a carport. So he paid the $250 to apply for a special exception.

"Happy wife, happy husband," he argued.

The Board quickly and unanimously granted relief.

"Do you want me to call your wife and tell her you got it?" asked Chairman Gus Loupos.

"Yes," answered Alfredo, "I'm hungry."

Dent Opposes Normalization With Cuba

Representative Dent’s Statement on the Decision by President Obama to Normalize Relations with Cuba

We as Americans are rightfully glad that our fellow citizen, Alan Gross, has been released by Cuban authorities and has now returned home. This is great news for Mr. Gross and his family, given his unjust five-year imprisonment.

However, like many Americans, I question not only the President’s decision to release the Cuban agents in our custody, but also his decision to normalize relations with the Cuban regime at this time.

Make no mistake – the people of Cuba are not free nor has there been any softening by the Castro brothers on human rights issues. Cuban citizens still live with the haunting fear of unjust imprisonment based on the political views they might hold or espouse. Any attempt to normalize relations with the Cuban regime must be conditioned upon real humanitarian, political and social reform for the betterment of the Cuban people. It’s clear the Administration has received no such commitment from the Castro regime.

The President’s action will have repercussions and Members of Congress will be heard on this issue. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I anticipate that there will be an amendment offered to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being spent on the construction or acquisition of any sort of embassy facility in Cuba. If offered, that amendment will have my support.

Charlie Dent's criticism is relatively restrained, compared to the rants of his Republican colleagues. Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, himself a Cuban-American, is calling President Obama the “Appeaser-in-Chief.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio has branded Obama the "worst negotiator in modern U.S. history."

On the other hand, Pope Francis believes normalization is in the interest of both countries.

So do I. Maybe he'll make me a Bishop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NorCo DA Announces Task Force to Prevent Elder Abuse

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is taking aim at those who prey on our senior citizens. Former bank President Richard Freer, a financial predator, recently pleaded guilty to squandering the life savings of many elderly clients who trusted him. But this extends to family members, too, who often steal from and physically abuse older relatives. In addition, our elderly are often targeted by scam artists. After meeting with the Department of Aging Director John Mehler, the DA has decided to establish an Elder Abuse Task Force.

Explaining his motives, Morganelli repeated Hubert Humphrey's often quoted moral test of government, stating government is judged not just by how it treats those in the dawn of life, but those who are in their twilight as well as those who are in the shadows.

Morganelli has established a child sexual assault division and court school to help those in the dawn of life. His recently announced Mental Health Court should provide relief for some of those in the shadows. Now he proposes that we pay closer attention to elderly crime victims. His hope is that an Elder Abuse Task Force will prevent those crimes from happening.

Morganelli is no fan of establishing a task force just for the sake of having one, he stated, but believes an elder abuse task force would educate the public, seniors and law enforcement. He said it will be a small group wuth the following goals:

  • Education. - Bankers and health care providers should be trained to recognize signs of exploitation, like a dwindling bank account. He believes local television, radio and social media should be used to disseminate information to the public. 
  • Link Elderly Service Providers With Law Enforcement. - "More communication will result in less victimization," Morganelli explains. 
There are currently about 20 different task forces in the state. Some operate as nonprofits, while others are under the direct control of the District Attorney.

Originally published at 2:48 pm in outline form.  

Mezzacappa Defies Sheriff's Levy

As most of you know, I have a $70,000 plus judgment against perennial West Easton Borough Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa. I've held off on executing against her home, but did file a writ of execution against her personal property. This is an order directing the Sheriff to levy on her personal property, and then sell it. She was also notified to appear at a deposition to disclose her assets, but she failed to appear

Once Mezzacappa got wind of the writ of execution, she began hiding her black Toyota RAV to prevent the Sheriff from levying upon it. She also refused to answer the door whenever Sheriff's visited her. But not long ago, her RAV was spotted, parked in an alleyway a few blocks from her home. I notified the Sheriff's Office, and they immediately levied on it, and posted notice of the levy at her home.

Once a property has been levied on by the Sheriff, it is unlawful to hide it. That is considered defrauding a secured creditor. Here's what the Crimes Code says:
§ 4110. Defrauding secured creditors. A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he destroys, removes, conceals, encumbers, transfers or otherwise deals with property subject to a security interest or after levy has been made thereon with intent to hinder enforcement of such interest.
The levy posted on Mezacappa's house and car advised her it is unlawful to remove it. But within hours of the levy, her vehicle was gone.

I sent her an email requesting her to return the vehicle back to its original location. I told her she is committing a crime.

I got this response from her yesterday.

"Keep lookin""

In addition, this anonymous comment was posted on my blog.

"Did you find the toyota?"

Finally, my West Easton Sources tell me that Mezzacappa is now driving a silver colored Mercedes with New Jersey plates.

I think it's pretty clear she violated the law. It is one thing to thumb her nose at me. But her actions threaten our system.

Guridy's Days as Allentown City Council Prez May Be Numbered

Inside word has it that Ray O'Connell is working on a coup of Julio Guridy as Allentown City Council Prez. All this really means is that Ed Pawlowski is replacing one yes man with another.

Becahi Boys Basketball Ekes Out Its First Win

Though I have many stories to tell,I spent most of last night watching Bethlehem Catholic basketball. Though the team started out 0-4, it never gave up on itself and scored its first victory last night against Freedom, 63-61. Bonita Crowe, who some of you know, has to be very proud of her grandson. He's Chance Neilley, and had a game-high 21 points. He has also been a consistent scorer in Beca's losing efforts.

Though Freedom got off to an early lead, it just could not put Becahi away. Then, in the 4th quarter, the Golden Hawks took the lead briefly, and then things went back and forth in a very exciting game. 

Fabulous Freddie Simmons seems to have made the transition from football into basketball. It was nice to see some of his senior team mates there to cheer him on. 

Antwon Keenan, who had been injured, should return to the roster soon,and that will help, too.

I've seen them lose and now I've seen them win. Their smiles should have stopped the rain. 



  

Bethlehem Tp Monthly Reports - November

Once every month, department heads provide a monthly report to Bethlehem Township Commissioners. I love these because they provide a perspective from the people who actually do the work. Here are some November highlights:

Planning

- A comprehensive Parks Plan has been approved by the recreation Board and is on its way to the Planning Comm'n.
- St. Luke's is proposing a 3-story medical office building at its Anderson campus.
- Intermittent blasting has stopped at Madison Farms, and building permits have been issued for retail pads.
- People FCU is coming to Easton Avenue.
- Northampton Community College dorm expansion is under way.

Public Works

- New fitness stations at the municipal park are now installed.
- Four big leaf vacuums were working ten hours per day for two weeks to help with leaf collection.
- Yard waste recycling center had 738 visits.

Police

- Patrick Brehm continues his training at the Montgomery County Police Academy.
- Officers received training on defense tactics and handcuffing techniques.
- Chief Dan Pancoast visited and read to the 5th grade class at Our lady of Perpetual Help.
- Police investigated 69 accidents involving 122 vehicles and 7 injuries.
- Police issued 143 traffic citations, 125 warnings and 30 parking tickets.
- Police made 27 felony/misdemeanor arrests, filed 6 DUI summons and issued 16 citations for summary offenses.

Finance

- The township has received 249% of the building construction fees budgeted for the year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Local Names on Wolf Transition Team

The Patriot News has a listing of Governor Tom Wolf's 250-plus person transition team.  The following local names are included:

Rob Wonderling (former state senator) - Community and Economic Development

Bob Donchez (Bethlehem Mayor) - Chair, Drug and Alcohol Programs

Sonia Vasquez (Donegal School Principal) - Education

George White (Lehigh University) - Education

Jim Hickey (Norco former hatchetman) - General Service

TJ Rooney (former state rep) - Insurance

Willie Reynolds - Emergency Management

Abe Kassis (Norco Ass't DA) - State Police

If I missed any names, fill me in.

Only Bethlehem Tp Will Fight Over No-Tax Hike Budget

Michael Hudak
For the sixth straight year, Bethlehem Township Commissioners voted last night to adopt a no-tax hike budget. This one was a no-brainer. But not in Bethlehem Township. Arguments erupted over 4-way stop signs, back-room meetings, fire rescue trucks, a $200,000 shitter, a raise of up to 3% for 17 non-union employees and the power of the Evil Bulldogs.  Before I get into the histrionics, let me lay out the facts.

The Facts

A taxpayer in a median market value home worth $177,618, can expect to see the same $521 tax bill he saw in 2014. It's his lowest tax bill, too. County taxes last year were $940, while school taxes were $4,428. The millage rate is 5.99 mills.

It does spends $1.6 million more than it takes in. This shortfall will be made up by taking money from the fund balance On paper, the fund balance is projected to drop $2 million over the next year and end at just $1.46 million. Funds on reserve will only be 10% of the budget. Freda stated that the reserve should be between 12-18%.

The Township's largest revenue source is Act 511 taxes, which consist of transfer taxes, earned income taxes and business mercantile taxes. These provide 31% of the Township's revenue. Real estate taxes, the second largest revenue source, brings in 27% of the Township's income.

The biggest drain on revenue is personnel. Ten years ago, the Township had 93 employees. Today, there are just 85 left, represented by three different unions.

Shit water cameras

Pat Breslin, who has missed three Board meetings this year, had a large audience of fellow tea party members in the audience. Not one of them attended a single budget hearing. Only two of them are regular attendees. But last night, they all suddenly became financial experts with all kinds of observations.

One of them, who was wearing goggles for underwater diving, is a shit expert, He questioned the cost of some camera system for viewing shit water, something I admit escaped my notice. Now I have no idea why municipalities buy cameras for watching shit water, but they do. This guy has a system himself, He might even have a few stills of some ploppers hanging on his wall. He told Manager Melissa Shafer that there are all kinds of shit shows where you can pick these cameras up real cheap. He goes to them all the time.

Shafer smiled, like she does at everyone, even me. But i don't think she'll be going to any shit show any time soon.

$200,000 shitters

Michael Hudak was blowin' oil over $200,000 shitters slated for what they like to call the North 40. Normal people would call it the Bulldogs' playing fields. Bulldogs is the name of the Township's Athletic Association.

You see, even in Bethlehem Township, people do shit. And during football and softball games, they shit a lot, Moms, dads, grandfathers, grandmothers. Especially after ordering nachos. Hudak sneered at people who "feel embarrassed" to use a port-a-john, and argued the only reason this was included in the budget was politics.

"The Bulldogs are a large group of voters." he observed. But he's not about the politics, although he claimed to have spoken to a lot of people who feel like he does, so maybe he is about the politics and is just full of shit from not using the shitter enough. I don't know.

Hudak always ends his speeches with, "That is all I have to say."

Tom Nolan, who is up for election next year and supports the $200,000 shitters, was very offended at the suggestion that his vote was political.

He pointed out that the shitters are also being used for storage. I have no idea what will be stored there, and don't want to know.

From the floor, Martin Comer complained that the Bulldogs tell people who to vote for when they register their kids to play sports. Most bulldogs would call that bullshit.

One of the Bulldogs' coaches, Frank or Mike Grillo, pointed out that the sanitation at that area is "absolutely disgusting" and numerous children have been stung by bees while using the port-a-johns.

The 3% Raise

Though he's missed three meetings this year, Pat Breslin claims to have spent the last five weeks speaking to 400 people, and got a lot of "ill feedback." Maybe they're using the port-a-johns. Then Breslin started talking about the national debt, the Harrisburg bankrupticy and went on the claim that even his "dear friend" Hayden Phillips had to take a pay cut. So he's opposed to any raises at all for the 17 non-union workers in the Township.

Rather than arguing that his dear friend should get a raise, Breslin wants everyone else to suffer.

If the raises were removed, the Township would save about $38,000

Over the past seven years, the salaries of nonunion workers have gone up just 2.4%, states Manager Shafer.  Roy Roth stated he has not had a raise since 1992.

Chetwin residents: What About Us?

Wayne Kresge, who has been at the spearhead of complaints about stormwaters at 15 homes along Chetwin Terrace, is incensed that the Township would build $200,000 shitters without addressing the storm water issue in his area.

He's been coming to meetings for the past 1 1/2 years, and Township employees cleaned out a swale, but he contends disaster is on the horizon.

$1.1 million for fire rescue trucks

Hudak also objected to $1.1 million to replace two fire rescue vehicles, each of which is over 20 years old. He claimed they aren't in "dire need" of replacement, though both have no state certification. "I speak from logic and facts," stated Hudak at one point. "That is all I have to say."

At least until firefighter Ron Ford said he was "disgusted" by Hudak's remarks. Hudak was offended by that, but Fire Chief Dave Stapinski got up to say that each vehicle has been carefully researched and that was based on the assurances of a committee that included two Commissioners.

Tom Nolan stated there were a lot of half truths being disseminated, and the realitiy is that the more expensive fire resuce truck was part of the approved 2014 budget. He pointed out that the Township did not spend 57% of its capital projects in 2014.

Hidak claimed that the Township has not raised taxes because of all the building, but the Township is nearly built out. "That is all I have to say," he stated for the fifteenth time.

Voting in favor of the budget were Marty Zawarski, Tom Nolan and Phil Barnard. Voting against it were Pat Breslin and Michael Hudak.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gas Compressor Foes Ask NorCo Council For Help

Columbia Gas plans to expand a compressor station in Forks Township. But a group of local residents are urging the state Department of Environmental Expansion to deny a permit. Forks Township has already adopted a resolution signalling its opposition. Although the deadline for public comment has passed, compressor foes asked Northampton County Council to take similar action at their meeting last Thursday.

According to the state DEP, the project application can be reviewed at its Wilkes-Barre or Bethlehem District Offices. but you have to make an appointment. (610-861-2070).

The state has already ruled that compressor stations are not major sources of pollution, but four people at Thursday's Council meeting had a different view. Joan Deen, who is active in the Northampton County League of Women Voters, made the following observations:
  • Columbia Gas wants to increase the horsepower at the compressor station from 2,250 hp to 21,000 hp (The Express Times said the increase would be from 5,000 to 22,000) "Obviosuly, they have plans for the future, notes Deen.
  • Though a school bus is unable to idle for more than 15 minutes because of air pollution concerns, this expanded station will be the equivalent of 168 school buses idling 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. 
  • The station as expanded will annually emit 70 tons of nitrous oxide; 163 tons of carbon monoxide; 15 tons of particulate matter that we will breathe in; 9 tons of volatile components; 99,000 tons of greenhouse gases; and 1/2 ton of sulfur dioxide.  
Tom Church, who worked for natural gas companies for 15 years, is opposed to the expansion. He argued that even if council fails to adopt a resolution opposing the permit, it really should update its emergency response plan. He stated the station is only 300' from some homes, though a google map search reveals that the compressor station is surrounded mostly by farmland.

Compressor foes have established a Facebook page, Stop the Easton Compressor Station.

We Really Are Still Bigoted

On Saturday afternoon, I stopped at my grandson's favorite sandwich shop to get him his favorite - a turkey hoagie with just lettuce and a little mayo - no cheese.  He would be playing in two basketball games that evening, so this was his fuel. As I waited, the owner of the store and one of his customers were trashing the "moolies" who are rioting down South, Then I heard one of them stating that he had just listened to crackpot radio, and it's really hard to give one of them the death penalty.

Most of you know me to be pretty confrontational. But I just kept my mouth shut, wishing to avoid an argument instead of telling two racists that they are racists.

The Councilperson Formerly Known as Karen Dolan

Karen Dolan, the Bethlehem City Council member who engaged in multiple conflicts of interest to benefit the financially mismanaged Illick's Mill, resigned her position after an Investigating Grand Jury demanded she do so. She still may face criminal sanctions for multiple Ethics Act violations. But if charges are filed, it will be under her new name, too.

After being disgraced by the Grand Jury report, Dolan high-tailed it out of town. She told everyone she was running off to Canada, but only made it as far as Burlington Vermont. She's using a new name, too. Instead of Karen Dolan, she is now K. Dierdre Dolan, both on LinkedIn and Facebook. Dierdre does sound more artsy, and could help her pick up freelancing gigs at Elance. It also will prevent google search users from learning the truth about her, It's dishonest, something I've come to expect from Dolan.

This could confuse even prospective clients into thinking she is journalist Dierdre Dolan.