|West Easton Treatment Center|
Judges, Court Administrators, Council members, Executive John Stoffa, prison officials and corrections officers were among the 75 people who attended the long-awaited opening of the 24,500-square-foot facility. But it is Mayor Gross who quietly spoke about the lost "art of listening to each other." That, and a willingness to compromise when necessary, is what made the Center possible, according to Gross. "We're proud to have this here," stated the Mayor.
The facility is located at what was once the site of Chipman Mills. More recently, Reda Sports was headquartered there. Both of those businesses are gone, but the buildings remain. As the roof began to cave in, West Easton soon found that it had a blighted eyesore instead of thriving businesses.
|Mayor Gerry Gross and Exec John Stoffa|
But Stoffa eventually decided on a 10-year lease in West Easton. Developer Ade Atiyeh, who specializes in adaptive reuse of old buildings like Hellertown High School and Bethlehem's Silk Mill, managed to convert a factory into a cheerful home for people who need help more than punishment. In addition to two gyms (both indoor and outdoor), engineer David Harte has installed skylights to fill the living quarters with bright natural light, in what Stoffa called a "touch of genius."
|Judge Robert Freedberg (left)|
Stoffa pulled out a copy of a speech Judge Freedberg gave in 2006, when the County dedicated a 243-bed prison expansion at a cost of $23.8 million. Waving the speech, Stoffa quoted Judge Freedberg as saying, "A measure of society’s decency is how it treats its prisoners."
Calling Judge Freedberg his inspiration, Stoffa reminded everyone of the two words that appear on the County Seal - "justice" and "mercy."
"[T]hey capture what this place is all about – opportunity, justice and mercy," reasoned Stoffa. "It is a place where lives can be saved, behavior corrected, amends made, recidivism reduced, while saving millions of dollars through drug and alcohol counseling and effective re-entry programs."
|Developer Abe Atiyeh|
Both Stoffa and Gross thanked developer Abe Atiyeh for his work on this project. "Abe got a lot of bad press in Bethlehem Township, but that is not the Abe Atiyeh we know in West Easton," said the Mayor. Stoffa explained that the entire project was the result of a simple handshake.
"I have never had one second of doubt about his intention, his honesty and his commitment to this project," declared Stoffa. "Without him, this would not be."
"Amazing!" was the description Council President John Cusick had of the facility, which he had seen before Atiyeh went to work.
Cusick was joined by fellow Council members Ken Kraft, Peg Ferraro, Barb Thierry, Scott Parsons and Bob Werner. Judge Craig Dally joined Judges McFadden and Freedberg.
Stoffa's Director of Administration, Tom Harp, called the failure in Bethlehem Township a foul ball. "We hit a home run," he stated.
West Easton Borough Council President Kelly Gross was credited, along with Atiyeh COO Mickey Thompson, with negotiating a "win-win deal" for West Easton, the County and Atiyeh.
The ceremony also included a Department of Corrections Honor Guard, led by Lt. Mark Lambert, which presented the Colors. It also included a solo bagpiper, whose music could be heard throughout the tiny borough as he practiced before the ceremony.
Democrats mixed with Republicans. Judges and Council members traded jokes. Executive Jhn Stoffa talked to everyone. The "art of listening to each other" was alive and well.
Blogger's Note: Below are some pictures from yesterday's ceremony, along with a slideshow.
|Atiyeh COO Mickey Thompson|
|GOP John Cusick flanked by Dems Scott Parsons and Bob Werner|
|Ken Kraft enjoying Barb Thierry and Peg Ferraro|
|Kelly Gross without her pink gavel|
|Scott Parsons with Judge Craig Dally|
|PJ Kim McFadden always laughs when she sees me.|
|Skylights make the facility downright cheerful|
|Now I know why Judge McFadden was laughing.|