Karner told Council that, instead of building a parking lot at Lehigh Riverport, Bethlehem now wants to reallocate some of that money for parking lots at 3rd & Taylor.
That drove Council Prez John Cusick nuts. He complained about spending anything for projects that have never gotten off the ground over the past ten years. He also found it "disgraceful" that County bond money would be spent on a parking lot in South Bethlehem when Gracedale's parking lot now looks like a lunar landscape.
It drove Council member Ron Angle nuts, too. South Bethlehem parking lots pale in contrast to the capital needs at Gracedale.
On Tuesday, voters adopted a Gracedale initiative mandating that the County keep Gracedale for the next five years. That presents a challenge to Council members and Executive John Stoffa, who whether they like it or not, have an obligation to fulfill the people's will.
At last night's Council meeting, Executive John Stoffa reported that he is already in the process of getting private managers for the facility. Ron Angle introduced a three-pronged resolution, which he called a "road map," to get the ball rolling. Under this resolution, the County will (1) strive to maintain a high quality of care at Gracedale; (2) try to divert remaining 2001 bond projects to Gracedale; and (3) establish an account for Gracedale, which may not be raided for other purposes.
Lamont McClure, Ann McHale and Peg Ferraro unsuccessfully tried to keep the bond projects where they are. In McClure's case, he is legitimately concerned that Council do this carefully to avoid liability. For McHale, it's a desire to keep the money flowing to Bethlehem, even if it's for Rhodadendron on Commerce Boulevard. Asked if she preferred that to sending the money to Gracedale, she replied, "Old people like to look at Rhodadendron, too." In Ferraro's case, it appears that her opposition was motivated primarily by disdain for Angle.
Council member Mike Dowd came to Angle's rescue, pointing out that there will be separate ordinances and hearings for each project eliminated, which would answer McClure's concern.
In the end, Council voted 8 to 1 to adopt Angle's resolution, which might free up to $1.4 million for Gracedale capital projects.
In addition, Council members intend to invite state representatives and senators and beg them to give County-owned nursing homes at least as much money in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements as they would get if they were privately owned.Gracedale would have received $4.3 million more in reimbursements last year if it were privately owned.
Despite all these efforts, John Stoffa told Council that he knows of no County in the Commonwealth that breaks even at its nursing home.