Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bethlehem Township Expenses Closely Examined

It's common to see local boards looking for nickels and dimes at budget time. But at their January 17 meeting, Bethlehem's Board of Commissioners continued their close examination of Township expenses.

Reviewing purchase orders, Commissioner Michael Hudak complained in detail about the $70,000 being spent for repairs to a relatively new HVAC system. He noted that one unit has been repaired 9 times since installation. "People are not looking as closely as they should," he complained.

Township Manager Howard Kutzler's request for a four-day training session in Boston, which will help him maintain his accreditation as a Planner, was approved at an expense of around $1,500. This money has already been set aside as part of the budget, and Kutler told Commissioners he'd pay for his own meals, mileage and parking. Thomas Nolan suggested that the Township pick up the tab for those expenses, but Jerry Batcha vetoed that notion, saying it's "quite admirable" that Kutler would offer to pay for some of the expenses. "I think we should take him up on it."

A $510 request to send two police officers to Pittsburgh for a four-day conference about organized crime, was tabled. Commissioners noted this has nothing to do with certification and are wary of paying for conferences while union negotiations are pending.

Sergeant Daryl LaPointe's request for state police training as a "drug recognition expert" was granted. The Commonwealth will pay for the training. "Aren't all our officers already trained in recognizing drunk drivers?" asked Commissioner Hudak. Sergeant Lapointe told Commissioners this training would teach him to recognize the effects of other substances, from marijuana to cocaine.

Currently, there are only eighty-one drug recognition experts throughout Pennsylvania.

Commissioners grudgingly approved Pamela Magnan's re-appointment to the Bethlehem Area Public Library Advisory Board, but also added Commissioner Thomas Nolan as an alternate. "We are not being represented well," complained Hudak. "They are there to pass on our opinions, our desires, our wants. Commissioners have repeatedly complained about their annual assessment, set at $375,000 this year.


Patrick McHenry said...

Bernie -

I would suggest a better picture instead of a picture of an angry (or mean-looking) Bert from Sesame Street. I'll admit I don't know what picture it should be, but I don't think a negative-looking picture is appropriate for a post about a government body actually doing their job.

Living in Allentown, I can tell you we could use a few of those over here.

Anonymous said...

Wtf is a drug recognition expert?

Let's stop pretending the drug war is anything more than a jobs program for the "justice" industry. Its created more crime and dependency, just like Prohibition. I we fought WWII with the same efficacy of the so-called "drug war" we'd all be speaking German or Japanese.

Stop the madness.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Batcha, you stay classy now. You're all bothered about Kutzler's expenses in Boston. Where was that concern when you and the gang were blowing through our tax dollars for your recreation Taj Mahal.

O'Hare, you are throwing softballs at Bethlehem Township. These guys are about as austere as burning bags of cash in the furnace. This municipality was making money hand over fist during the building boom and where did it all go?

They blew all their cash on *stuff* worthy of a first class Township. Rainy day fund? That's for second class townships to worry about.

They are debating dining expenses for one guy because of a decade of poor financial planning. I wouldn't glorify it. I'm convinced that the Commissioners never foresaw a downturn in the economy because they certainly did not plan for that to happen to Bethlehem Township.

This so called austerity is out of desperation, and nothing less.

Lighthouse said...

Anon 6:31

As TR said, "the man who really counts in the world is doer, not the mere critic--the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done."

I happen to disagree with most of your comments. That aside, as reported in the Express a few weeks ago, Batcha is not seeking election to a fourth term, so become a "doer" and (to use another TR attributed expression) "throw your hat in the ring".

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:31, You think I like saying nice things about any government? In truth, Beth Tp did foresee the downturn in the economy, and long before other municipalities. I do not agree with some of their stands, like with regard to homeless shelter contributions or libraries, but I understand their motivation.

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem Township foresaw the downturn?

You're absolutely serious about that, right?

The only way you disagree with my comments is because you don't live in the Township. I consider doing my part in A) paying my taxes on time and B) not voting for the spenders that have been on the Board the past few years.

And that's what's missing here in the discussion.

The Township did not foresee the downturn. They just lived high on the hog when the development was bringing the cash into the Township. Community Center, Exhibit A.

What they've done is paint themselves into the inevitable very large tax increase in 2011 with three union contracts up for renegotiation, coupled with all the other costs (health insurance, pension) that continue to rise. They are going to dip into the reserves 3/4 of a million this year alone.

Don't be so easy giving the Township kudos in saying its great at handling its budget. It's simply not an accurate statement.

If they had better managed the cash that was coming in during the last decade, this year and the next (and probably the following) wouldn't be so painful. The so called "cost saving measures" they've implemented are merely prolonging the inevitable increase.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, Bethlehem Tp did foresee the downturn. I say this bc the Twp Manager at that time, Jon Hammer, wrote a brilliant op-ed that predicted everything that subsequently happened. It was published in the Inky in mid 2008. He was one of the few voices crying out.
But I don't live there, as you correctly observe.

Anonymous said...

This is the same twp. that spent a ton of money on soccer fields and "community center" most citizens don't use. But the pol's and the friends of the pol's love it.

Again the hypocrisy flows from LVR>

Anonymous said...

I would say the Township has done a good job on spending within the past 3 years. Personnel costs have been cut through attrition layoffs. Last I remember was reportings that the police captain's job was not filled along with various planning jobs. I read that there were 10 full time job vacancies and possible more layoffs. One tax increase in 17 years to boot. Think some of the posts on here are ignorant and those not knowing what is going on in the Township. Maybe those people ought to go to some meetings. Sounds like Hammer did a good job.

Anonymous said...

Keep digging, cell phone expenses, water cooler's etc etc, all for the staff of the twp.

It's time to renegotiate all township contract's and stop the flow of tax dollars into non necessary staff perks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I reported what happened during a meeting My purpose there was to tell what happened not to do a hatchet job. If you;d like to do that to Beth Tp or any other officials, start your own blog.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:48.

I live in Bethlehem Township and pay a lot of taxes. We happen to like the Community Center and think it was a good thing to spend money on. I also think they should pay the guy's expenses too.

Anonymous said...

This is the same twp. that spent a ton of money on soccer fields and "community center" most citizens don't use. But the pol's and the friends of the pol's love it.

You need to leave your box. The center is filled with Township children every day playing organized sports. Just because YOU don't use it or don't have children to use it, I wouldn't be so quick to discount it because "most" residents don't use it. It's not all about "me, me, me." Dunk your teabags elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Water coolers? Are you serious? These are human beings. They aren't stooges for your amusement. Get a grip, man.