Thursday, August 23, 2012

NorCo's W Easton Treatment Center - Both Justice & Mercy

West Easton Treatment Center
Northampton County is famous for its cacophony and dissonance, but August 22 was an unusually harmonious day. It occurred, strangely enough, during the dedication of a new, 100-bed, treatment center for drunk drivers and domestic relations offenders in tiny West Easton Borough. The person who set the tone was its 73 year old Mayor - Gerry Gross.

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
Northampton County could give West Easton a thriving business, but it's the wrong kind. Even a treatment center for low-risk offenders was extremely unpopular in Bethlehem Township. That's where Executive John Stoffa had once hoped to expand, having no room left at the County's postage stamp-sized Easton campus.

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)
Former President Judge Robert Freedberg, recently retired from the Superior Court, was in the audience, sitting next to President Judge Kimberly McFadden. He learned that he provided the inspiration for the Treatment Center.

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. 

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is good stuff and many are to be congratulated especially Abe Atiyeh. He is a visionary and gets it done. Putting your money where your mouth is, is no small feat. Hopefully this hastens the razing of the 1871 county jail building or turning it into a museum and/or records storage facility because it isn't fit for human habitation. A Stoffa milestone..good job.

Anonymous said...

For once, all the politicians in the pictures look harmonious, happy and satisfied. That's very rare in Northampton County.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was a wonderful event.

Anonymous said...

Tiny West Easton proved that litigation doesn't have to accompany every project. This was a great example of leadership by elected officials willing to work in harmony with a private developer. The taxpayers of West Easton and Northampton County will benefit, and, hopefully, many lives will be turned around for the better. I commend Mayor Jerry Gross, Borough Council President Kelly Gross and all the other government officials involved for getting it done. Kudos also go to the Atiyeh business enterprise for making the treatment center a reality.

Anonymous said...

That's where we are in Norco , happy over a prison. We are doomed.

Lighthouse said...

I genuinely hope this is a success. If it is, then it should ease some of the (somewhat understandable) NIMBY concerns in other communities to such centers in areas that are properly zoned for them.

My only concern with such facilities is that the County maintain total control. I understand partnering with CEC for the Future Foundations program for the research-based expertise, if the County it in ultimate control. I do not agree with private prisons or treatment centers (that are court ordered stays, not voluntary) because ultimately profit motive is the primary driver rather than the collective community interest. I have the same problem with the military privatizing many functions. Basic government functions, such as law enforcement/corrections and defense, should not be privatized.

Bernie O'Hare said...

lighthouse, The county is in total control. CEC is there for treatment.

Anonymous said...

Treatment center think about it . Itis for DUI and domestics, what about the junkie and crackhead that really need the treatment do they just get left behind at the so called antiquated prison.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I suspect that what you call junkies and crackheads, though they need treatment, are mostly unemployable and need the structure of a prison environment.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"happy over a prison. We are doomed."

As long as assholes like you have nothing to do with government, we'll be fine. The County is happy over the treatment center bc it recognizes that people should be treated like people, not animals. The McMud McClures don't get that.

Anonymous said...

This facility is expandable by 100 or 200 more residents. In time I think there will be an opportunity for a more varied clientele to avail themselves of the treatment end of incarceration. The facility will have to prove to its new neighbors that it is safe and secure and not a liability in any way.

Anonymous said...

Fuckoff you lonely old man.

zoid said...

I am sick and tired of Bethlehem Township getting thrown under the bus with this treatment facility. Unfortunately based on current zoning Abe had to go to, unfortunately, the zoning hearing board. What happened there had nothing at all to do with the administration, elected officials or planning commission. The township supported the project but the zoning hearing board threw them under the bus. Bethlehem Township did not hit a foul ball, their zoning hearing board did and screwed up big time!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

That they did. I suspect the result would be different if Comm'rs were making the call. it's ironic bc they are the ones who are supposed to be political, while the ZHB is supposed to be quasi-judicial. Didn't work out that way.

Ryan C said...

Hey Bernie, was wondering if Lehigh County has a similar facility?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes. It has an excellent facility in Salisbury Tp.

Anonymous said...

With all do respect to zoid, the zoning board provided the political cover to the commissioners so they weren't the ones that had to turn this down. Couldn't the Township have amended the ordinance to allow for treatment centers with review from the commissioners? Seems like the township lost a great opportunity here.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a few local pols could put down the fork for a while.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Stoffa wasn't gracious enough to invite many former county officials who pushed for treatement, over the years. With Stoffa it is always abnout good Press. Pulling in Judge Freeberg was part of the Stoffa poliitcal genius.

To all the libtards, you will still need a new prsion, the county is expanding its population and not in a good way. T^here are mo9re and more violent and repeat offenders. The prison has been ignored for seven years and this while nice and helpful, will not end the need for real action on the county prison.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with 11:22 am. All the troughfeeders celebrating another ill-advised expansion of their realm is neither necessary or appropriate.

We'll return to this, like we have on so many other topics, with yet another I told you so when the promised savings and recidivism rate reductions do not materialize and the cost escalates "beyond anything we could have foreseen at the time."

But, today, the trough is full - PARTAKE and be glad!

-Clem

Anonymous said...

The future is unwritten. This center is a positive and progressive statement about the future of NH county. Better this than another stinkin' prison.

Anonymous said...

It's appropriate that its located in the REDA building. Scott Reda may someday be a resident. He committed numerous crimes while running his fathers good name into the ground. He screwed the local govt out of grants, employees out of benefits, banks out of money, vendors out of goods and the list goes on. now he takes credit for work his daddy (lou, who Is a good person) has done.

Anonymous said...

Yea, wi9th treatemnt centers who needs a prsion. Love they brother, hate the gun.

Anonymous said...

Pure Stoffa pie in the sky spending. All show no go. What will the contract cost the county? In real money?

Bernie O'Hare said...

This will cost the County a little over $400 thousand per year.

Anonymous said...

In other words at least a million a year. Pure Stoffa sell the elderly poor to cuddle the criminals

Bernie O'Hare said...

A Gracedale Goon speaks, spreading the usual manure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Too bad Stoffa wasn't gracious enough to invite many former county officials who pushed for treatement, over the years. With Stoffa it is always abnout good Press. Pulling in Judge Freeberg was part of the Stoffa poliitcal genius."

This is how ridiculous some Stoffa critics have become. They chastise Stoffa for not inviting former elected officials. Then they chastise him for inviting Judge Freedberg, a former elected official.

It was a nice event and it was wonderful to see how people got along. Political hacks have to try to make it look bad, but are too cowardly to identify themselves.

Anonymous said...

This treatment facility costs an estimated 400,000 dollars a year to run? Funded by the taxpayers who have jobs and abide by the laws. The same taxpayers who will have their family, friends, and loved ones with no aging services or lose their County DP (MR) worker?

Stoffa and Marcus refuse to go to council to fund these Human Services Programs and blame everything on the State?

Council members who routinely miss committee meetings and regular meetings were there for the press? Where are they in the Human Services meetings? I would bet that more than half of council have no clue what the programs do in Human Services!

Shameful by all for forgetting the innocent consumer who was born with an intellectual disability, the aging consumer who did not ask to not being able to take care of themself. I really feel for these consumers and their families who are overburdened with work, bills, their own immediate family, and taking care of loved ones who are consumers, while politicians and bloggers parade around using money on the same criminals who are a burden on society.

Wake Up and realize what is going on in the County and the Country.


Bernie O'Hare said...

You are totally out of line.

First, like it or not, county government exists to pay for the back end of crime. We have courts and jails or we have chaos.

Second, if you really are a conservative, you'd support this proposal. The treatment center will cost the county $400k per year. In 2006, it cost the county $23.8 MM for a jail addition with 243 beds. Do the frickin' math, genius.

Third, if you really are a conservative, you'd support this proposal. Recidivism is approaching 70% at Northampton County. A treatment center reduces that recidivism dramatically, decreasing county costs. In fact, thanks to treatment plans under way, the jail population has actually gone down.

Fourth, the people at yesterday's dedication are at committee and Council meeting, so you are nuts. You are slamming these people without knowing the facts.

Fifth, the notion that the sole function of county government is human services is absurd. The back end of crime is just as much or more of a core function. Council members don't go to human services committee hearings because they are run by a moron who likes to hear himself talk, and who incidentally was not present fro yesterday's dedication. I'm talking about Tom Dietrich.

McMud McClure has never attended a single one of Dietrich's bullshit meetings, so please tell me he's a jerk, too.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I didnt realize you thought Dietrich was a moron. However, since you dont bother to attend his committee meetings, how the hell would you know who was there??

Anonymous said...

The former Bethlehem Council member and now Human Service Worker is at it again Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately..I did not get a chance to schmooz with the pols. I was accosted by a member of the Jail Advisory Board on behalf of the defrocked chaplain of the jail. This person is also a minister and a pompous chest beating fundamentalist. He has declared Santosland a clean and fun place to live so let the parade of unfortunates begin anew. Funny how 2 jail board members get an escorted tour of the kingdom and interviews with the inhabitants but the city of Easton gets nothing.

Problem solved said...

To hell with all these money wasting social programs.

If the elderly can't take care of themselves then give them a poison pill to get them and my tax dollars out of their misery. End of problem.

If the drunks and wife beaters can't control themselves then publically stone the bastards to death and eliminate their worthless lives saving the county even more money. End of problem.

Recidivism is indeed a problem. Solve it by executing anyone who ends up being sentenced to jail for the second time. End of problem.

Sell tickets to the executions and allow concessions( t-shirts, hot dogs, soda, etc) to help raise money for the county.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I see. This explains why Iran and Saudi Arabia are so enlightened.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
No one stated tha sole purpose of County Govt is for Human Services. In an earlier blog, you admitted that 70% of the Cty is for human services. Also you have stated nothing on the issue of the funding issue of the HS program. Only you would make an apples and oranges comparison to the treatment facility and HS programs. You have baseless facts talking abou jail vs treatment programs. Maybe you should research the success rate these treatment programs.

The point was your boy Stoffa has not asked council for funding for programs for the county's most vulnerable citizens and rather invest those dollars into repeat offenders.

And he wants a bran new human service building? While he has already sold both Wolf and Bechtel in handshake agreements without telling council...

Tell me Bernie, what programs will be left found Human Services for this brand new building??

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
No one stated tha sole purpose of County Govt is for Human Services. In an earlier blog, you admitted that 70% of the Cty is for human services. Also you have stated nothing on the issue of the funding issue of the HS program. Only you would make an apples and oranges comparison to the treatment facility and HS programs. You have baseless facts talking abou jail vs treatment programs. Maybe you should research the success rate these treatment programs.

The point was your boy Stoffa has not asked council for funding for programs for the county's most vulnerable citizens and rather invest those dollars into repeat offenders.

And he wants a bran new human service building? While he has already sold both Wolf and Bechtel in handshake agreements without telling council...

Tell me Bernie, what programs will be left found Human Services for this brand new building??

Anonymous said...

You still look the Green Goblin in that outfit O'Hare.

Anonymous said...

Some people only have nasty things to say.