Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lehigh County Plans to Expand Work Release Facility, With or Without Norco

Last week, I told you all about Abe Atiyeh, protector of homeless, prisoners, politicians and his pocket book. He throws money at pols like lottery tickets, but with a lot more success. His latest scheme is to con Northampton County into leasing its new work release facility from him. His first venture, in West Easton, went nowhere. But now he's selling the county - and he is one of the best pitchmen out there - on a tract in Bethlehem Township in the middle of an industrial park.

Problem solved, right? Wrong.

I searched through all the records of Northampton County yesterday, and neither Atiyeh nor any of his corporate shells own anything in that vicinity. He may have an option agreement, but it's unrecorded. Basically, he's scouring the area, hoping to find a site that he can then lease to the county for profit. Assuming Atiyeh buys and builds a work release facility, will he pay a living wage to his contractors, as the county is legally required when it builds something itself? I don't know, but let's not kid ourselves. His primary allegiance is to himself.

This site - located near Fritch Drive and Brodhead Road - has access to public water, but a local realtor informs me no public sewer is available. Bethlehem Township has no sewer capacity with Bethlehem.

So where are three hundred guys supposed to take a dump?

In the meantime, Bethlehem Township small business owners near this site are genuinely afraid. One of them, a young lady, informs me she is already afraid to walk to her car alone at night. When I offered to escort her, she got even more scared. She and many others plan on voicing their concerns at next Monday's Bethlehem Township's Supervisors' meeting.

While Northampton County stumbles along and runs after Atiyeh, alienating community after community, Lehigh County has quietly forged ahead with plans to expand its own work release facility, located near Route 378 in Salisbury Township. This center is so close to Northampton County, it can only be accessed by physically driving through Northampton County.

Established in 1989, Lehigh County's work release facility was never really built. That's too dignified a word. They just hauled in tractor trailers, stacked a few trailers next to each other, and threw in a few bunk beds and showers.

It was supposed to be a temporary solution.

Eighteen years later, they're finally getting around to a permanent structure. At last night's Lehigh County Commissioners' meeting, Dean Browning - who chairs the Planning Committee - introduced legislation (Bill 2008-09) for the design of a permanent work release facility, capable of housing five hundred inmates. In doing so, Browning noted that Lehigh County's work release population is currently 205. "If Northampton County chooses to join us, this would be an ideal time to do so."

Chairman Percy Dougherty was quick to agree. "I think it's a shame that Northampton County did not come on board with us. ... Maybe it's not too late."

Unlike Northampton, Lehigh has a facility. It has already introduced legislation to design a five hundred inmate recidivism center. It is very close to the homes and workplaces of most Northampton County work release inmates.

Now is the time to catch that train.

Blogger's Note: The difference between Northampton County Council and Lehigh County's Commissioners is like night and day. I will be posting a blog about that in the next few days.


Michael Schlossberg said...

Hey Bernie, I just wanted to thank you for appearing on Business Matters yesterday. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you in person but I hear the show went great. I'll let you and the rest of your readers know whenever its going to air.

Thanks a lot and take care!

Mike Schlossberg

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's a relief. I thought the show would be canceled after my appearance. Perhaps that show should be entitled "Monkey Business Matters."

Anonymous said...

monkeys are my turf, pal. backoff.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Getting chilly in here.

LSTresidentPIA said...

Will we need speical glasses to watch, I mean, your ugly mug online is one thing, but on TV...

Anonymous said...

On the surface, Lehigh's proposal seems to be in Northampton's best interst. But is it in the best interest of council members? They are Abe's gophers.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if Mr. Stoffa would work with No. Co. Council as well as Mr. Cunningham works with teir counterpatrs in Lehigh Co.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You're right. Mr. Stoffa is rebuffed every time he makes an attempt.

mystic rearden said...

Has Northampton County Council actually discussed cooperation with Lehigh County in a public setting? If so what were their arguments against?

It seems in the interest of NorCo taxpayers that such an idea should be publicly vetted out as to the pros and cons.

Tonight's evening news points out that 1 of every 100 Americans is now incarcerated. Half-jokingly I say bring back the chain gangs of "Cool Hand Luke". Seriously, though, it will be an ongoing and increasing expense of taxpayers, so something like cooperating with Lehigh County seems reasonable at face value.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa created his own mess when he meddled with Council makeup from the start of his term.

Ultimately Northampton County will continue sending its tax dollars and corrections jobs elsewhere to house prisoners. Lackawanna, Lehigh whatever.

This administration will never make this rehab thing fly. They don't have the will or the skill. I'm guessing this is some sort of trial balloon being lauched in anticipation of giving up on the Beth Twp site.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Stoffa created his own mess when he meddled with Council makeup from the start of his term.

I'm inclined to agree that is John's biggest mistake. I would rather see county money sent to another municipality thant to Abe Atiyeh. In LC, the train is still at the station, but the conductor is calling.

Anonymous said...

I think John is so used to praise from the press that he assumed all on Council would follow in line like a school board.
He did get too involve in Council affairs at the beginning and should have stayed out of things.
He has only himself to blame for some of his problems. For any Executive to assume a County Council will roll over due to media pressure is no student of history, or a very effective County Administrator.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John's mistake was to name two council members to his cabinet, making resignations necessary. That's when partisan politics installed two of Joe Long's yes men. One is gone, and the other barely won. Stoffa never injects himself in council business. The selection of a recidivism center should be a combined effort of all three branches.

Chris said...

Let's face it what should have been done was a move of the Courthouse, prison and this new center to Upper Nazareth in the Gracedale area. Plenty of room for buildings and parking galore. Get Lou Pektor and Abe to take over the old courthouse and prison and turn them into fashionable condos

GEORGE said...

Please, if you want a profit from prisoners, most of whom have $0 cash, make checks payable to the National Deficit, not to the Jap facility who OWNS the work-release center!I was imprisoned there 2.5 years ago, and my payments went to Japan, (and crooked officials,ie laundry usage and cable tv, ha ha ha! since there is no paper trail, so do the auditing thing and help out the deficit! Or is this another corrupt thing? Remember...There is a Hell, sooner or later!