Thursday, April 18, 2013

Shouldn't Northampton County Take Care of Its Buildings?

Flags at half mast in memory of Boston Marathon victims
When Executive John Stoffa proposed a centralized human services building in Bethlehem Township, one of the reasons advanced was the poor condition of the Governor Wolf Building in Easton, where 173 human services employees are located. Children and Youth workers presented a jaw-dropping power point. It depicted grisly conditions that endanger not only the people who work there, but innocent children who are already the victims of abuse and neglect. Obviously, the County does a terrible job taking care of its buildings. Yesterday's Finance Committee hearing provides a glimpse into just how that happens.

At issue was a contract for a preventative maintenance plan for the corrections buildings in Easton and West Easton. This includes the old prison, which has been standing since 1871. As Council President John Cusick observes, "Duct tape only does so far."

A three-year contract with D'Huy Engineering was proposed at a cost of $119,000 for the first year, followed by $40,000 retainers for years 2 and 3. If dissatisfied, Council could vote not to fund the retainers in years 2 and 3. Under the proposed contract, D'Huy would provide an overall assessment of existing systems to help the Corrections Department develop a plan to keep everything up and running.

There was some confusion concerning the terms, so the matter was tabled. Ken Kraft also balked at "throwing money" for yet another plan, and mocked the notion of paying an annual $40,000 retainer to D'Huy for the "privilege" of letting them charge the County hourly. Those points were well made.

But then Kraft suggested that the County should just let this go because we'll have a new Executive in January. "The Executive had 8 years to put a new plan in place," he complained. "Now they want to bring up all these things and do the right thing."

Let's assume Council decides it better wait. If it does, it will take at least two years for that Executive to understand what the hell is going on. And when he does, he may have a Council that is unwilling to work with him. That problem plagued John Stoffa in his first term. And that's how County assets deteriorate. So my answer to Ken is that it's never too late to do the right thing. John Stoffa is the Executive until the end of the year.

Scott Parsons took issue with Ken as well. "Are we supposed to sit here on our hands, waiting for a new Executive?" he asked.

When that happens, things don't get done. Buildings deteriorate. The Gracedale parking lot looks more and more like a moon crater.

56 comments:

Ken Kraft said...

It's not that simple Bernie, first it was 40,000 retainage then it was a 50,000 retainage. Then when I asked they could not tell me the hourly rate that we would be paying them when we call them for services. And a representative from the firm was at the mike at the meeting. So I want to fix the buildings and maintain them just as much as you, but come on, I also need answers before I spend taxpayer money, or just flush it down the toilet.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, this is crazy. The guy does nothing for 7 years and in the last year he wants to become a leader and spend the next guy into a major tax increae, he will never get blamed for.

Stoffa is a trainwreck. County
council should let him do what he did for his first seven years, walk the halls of the government center, shruggign his shoulders and telling sex jokes.

Enough already from county council and this guy. He let the Wolf and Bechtel buildings go to hell to get a new building for himself and now he has a "plan" for the prison. Then he also has a "plan" for the bridges. Enough, the council should pay him to build birdhouses for the next six motnhs and offer to buy them. It would be cheaper for taxpayers and more useful for the birds.

Uncle Remus said...

ken kraft is a union boy - thus he has no credibility - there's always a sub plot - can't be trusted

Anonymous said...

Uncle Remus

So if they spent 214,000 of you taxes on basically nothing at all, you are good with that?

Anonymous said...

always a sub-plot with D'Huy. theyacn't be trusted either

was this contract put out for market-place competetive proposal?

if not, why not?

Anonymous said...

I think you should introduce yourself to Kraft uncle Remus and tell him that yourself.

Anonymous said...

The jail should be turned into a museum for goodness sake. Expand West Easton and let Abe be the landlord instead of the county. Use your heads and stop this silliness. I give Kraft credit for sniffing out the waste. If the court side of this would cooperate and stop sending everybody to jail for minor crap..we would not have this problem. We need a legit drug court and incarcerate the worst of the worst. This is the price of electing hard ass judges.

Anonymous said...

Soon enough the Feds will show up and condemn the old jail and file suit against the county for inhumane treatment and violations of inmate civil rights. Wake up NorCo! You have ignored that pile of stone for decades on end. Who cares right? It's only the jail..screw them! The bill is coming due..

Jim Gregory said...

8 Again, as in the case of the Human Services building, the county has sat on their hands for eight years and let the buildings deteriorate.
Then they come to council and say , hey our buildings are falling apart. Please build us a new shiny multimillion dollar building...Awww,the county administration says,"Just screw the taxpayers. We re all leaving and they'll just blame you for the millions needed in increased taxes, lol". Oh yea, and by the way, there wont be any money left for Gracedale and, Stoffa says," tough shit"! Kraft is right on the money. You go brother!! Scott, I applaud your concerns. However, when taxes are increased tenfold to pay for these buildings, Angle will run again and blame you for the increases. Be smart. Wait on this..

Ken Kraft said...

I did bring up the age of the old jail and that exact question but Bernie refused to cite it in this article.

Anonymous said...

so, did I get this right,...D'Huy WAS under contract, and the wolfe building went in the shitter.

and now, we're supposed to renew that contract, to prevent county buildings from going in the shitter?

Ken Kraft said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Remus said...

hey jim - climbed any gates lately?

Anonymous said...

Ken..you sit at the jail advisory board meetings. Haven't you seen and heard enough from those people in charge over there? It's time to get some new people in there and some new ideas how to do this incarceration thing. What is your confidence level with the present suits at that table?

Anonymous said...

Pouring more money into the old jail is insane! Take a wrecking ball to it and be done with it. Put in a parking lot.

Anonymous said...

At least Stoffa took the first step in West Easton. Don't accuse him of not trying and he tried to do the same in Beth. Twsp. and was rebuffed the those fine people. Stop blaming and take action. it's called leadership.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Ken..grab the bull by the horns here! You are councils rep. on the jail. Lead!

Jim Gregory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim Gregory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It was during this administration that Council did away with the five year capital plan. If you had a five year plan you could budget for capital improvements. Also, who led the charge every budget year to remove capital projects from the budgets so there would be no tax increase? open your eyes. Where is the "Public Works Director" during this time. He is a poor excuse for a public works director just as all of Stoffa's staff from the Court Services Director to the public works director. You need to plan. Even you plan for a new roof on your home, siding, painting, plumbing upgrades, etc. etc. Stoffa is the worst thing ever happened to this County, and that includes Reibman and his henchmen.

Anonymous said...

The jail is 142 years old! Time to move on. Demolish it.

Anonymous said...

Stop the blame game..and LEAD! We have elected representative government. If they are not doing the job..vote them out and put somebody in that will LEAD!

Anonymous said...

You don't put a new roof on a building that has a rotten foundation. It's an open sewer hole. Fill it and cap it and pave over it.

Anonymous said...

There is more to this county than Easton. Take the counties business wherever the best deal is as far as the tax payers are concerned. Put the jail out in the middle of nowhere..out of sight if need be. Please stop this nonsense.

Ken Kraft said...

I am not the prison liaison, but I do attend meetings once a month if I am available. Barb is the prison Liason.

Uncle Remus said...

notice that weird jim's inbred union hate manifests itself into threats of physical violence. I do believe the boy needs years of intensive counseling.

Have a good day crazy jim wasting the county's dime

Anonymous said...

You don't have an opinion? Why do you go? Barb is a lame duck..do you want the job?

Anonymous said...

How come she didn't yell about the costs you found dismaying? Maybe she doesn't care?

Anonymous said...

I know..nobody wanted the jail job so Barb got stuck with it. I see..

Anonymous said...

People like you beat the drum of tax cuts repeatedly and NOW you want citizens to take responsibility? We should be raising taxes and getting stuff done and putting people to work. The Tea Party mindset has really screwed us over.

Anonymous said...

"We should be raising taxes..."

And the coveting 47% is heard from yet again. Non-contributors are always on their Obama Phones whining about contributors not paying enough.

Anonymous said...

If Reibman is willing to support the building of a new jail out on the farmland near Gracedale..I will hold my nose and vote for him! I detest him on many levels and he eff'ed up a lot of stuff but this has to be done. What say Glenn?

Anonymous said...

Between West Easton and the new buildings on Union St...you won't need to build a huge edifice to hold longer term and max. protection criminals. It can be done and at a reasonable cost.

Anonymous said...

You can buy pre-fab jails in whatever model you want.

Anonymous said...

"Shouldn't Northampton County Take Care Of Its Buildings?"

Yes. But history shows it doesn't. Time for something to change.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ken, I agree with you that you did the right thing to table this matter. There was too much confusion, as you made very clear. That retainer, which I think is $40k for year 2 and $40k for year 3, seems very high to me as well. I believe you were dead on target there. Something also just does not seem right about D'Huy always ending up on top with these public works deals. It certainly has a strange appearance. I think you guys were absolutely right to put on the brakes.

But the notion that the County should do nothing because a new exec is coming, is downright ridiculous. This is why we are such lousy stewards. Everything gets too political. John Stoffa was elected to serve the people until the end of the year. That contract is written so that you can kill year 2 and 3.

Under your thinking, a county should never float a bond for capital improvements. Most of those are 30-year bonds, so they affect future Executives and Councils. Your logic is that should never happen. But nothing then would ever get done.

What about those imperiled brdges. Stoffa wants to present a bond for improvements to bridges and some work needed at Gracedale. under your thinking, he should just scrap it. There is never a bad time to do the right thing.

But you're the guy making the calls, while i'm the guy making rabbit ears.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I did bring up the age of the old jail and that exact question but Bernie refused to cite it in this article.:"

Ken, read my second paragraph. I cited the age of the old prison, along with Cusick's remark, which I thought made the point best.

But this contract embraces ALL the facilities used by Corrections.

Anonymous said...

Take a walk around any of the county buildings there dump holes. We have a parking garage falling in. Abestos filled courthouse. Outdated stone prison. Moldy dirty air vents in all the buildings. Just look above the newly painted courtrooms and you will see the nice dirt ring already accumulating. Not just in the main courthouse either. Boy a nice air quality study would be great to have.

Ken Kraft said...

We HAVE to repair bridges. We do not however need an engineering firm on call to tell us how to maintain a leased building in west easton nor do we need to waste 65,000 bucks on looking into a "plan" for the nearly 200 year old prison. I thought that was something you do all the time, now they need this and claim they have nothing? Something is definitely not right here Also they said initially that it was a 40,000 retainer but when the other guy stood up he corrected it to say it was a 50,000 a year retainer. that is when i said i need to pay you 50,000 a year to have the privilege to be able to call you so you can bill me by the hour for your services? then i asked what the hourly rate was and guess what, they had no clue. all 3 of them. I had no other choice but to let them know that I can not vote for that kind of business and that why i asked to table it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"ken kraft is a union boy - thus he has no credibility"

That's exactly why he does have credibility. He has never hidden the fact that he is a union agent, and his work in unions has given him an uncanny ability to sniff out bullshit in contracts, and an understanding of many of the terms.

He sniffed out trouble with the Lifestar contract, and is very good at looking over terms. I don't think contractors will get away with lowball bids so long as he has a say.

But I disagree with Ken when he suggests that we should just put this off and wait for a new Exec.

Jim Gregory said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

"t was during this administration that Council did away with the five year capital plan."

Thus is nonsense. The 5 year plan was abolished by a R Council under Reibman. In act, I think it even went to the voters. It was one of the stupidest things I ever saw.

But is dishonest to blame Stoffa for this when he had nothing to do with it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ken, I agree completely with your points at 9:41. Those are excellent points. I don't agree that we sit on our hands and do nothing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jim Gregory and I had a meeting asome months ago. I know when he is commenting, and when he is not. Soeone has impersonated him here, in an obvious attempt to get hm in trouble. I am deleting the comments that are impersonations.

Anonymous said...

"that is when i said i need to pay you 50,000 a year to have the privilege to be able to call you so you can bill me by the hour for your services? then i asked what the hourly rate was and guess what, they had no clue. all 3 of them. I had no other choice but to let them know that I can not vote for that kind of business and that why i asked to table it."

Sounds like the 3 Stooges Firm of Dewey,Cheatum & Howe

Anonymous said...

Uncle Remus is the new Clem.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of BS with this dhoy company. Also sounds like Stoffa and his admin are the biggest slumlords this side of the Delaware. Council should call him out and ask for his resignation. Better yet, Stoffa should just resign and save all the trouble.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that consultant and Stoffa guru, Ken Mohr has been making it on the front and back end of all these county deals. Shameful!

For six months the council can have Stoffa walk the halls and curse Gracedale in his office, and then we can actually have an intelligent plan. You already bought him two unecessary buildingss, please no more damage. This guy has let the county rot for seven years, his claim to want to fix things now, rings hollow.

Anonymous said...

Stop speaking ill of the dead..or near dead so to speak. The exec. is heading toward a well deserved sunset retirement. Stop blaming and start leading. Council is complicit..they voted for the issues brought forth. Stop bashing the guy and move on!

Anonymous said...

"heading toward a well deserved sunset retirement"

With his twenty seven public teet pensions. Thank God the guy is going. Just don't let him do anymore dmaage before he leaves. It will take years and massive tax increases to fix what he has already done.

Anonymous said...

Money will be spent irregardless of whether it's a newly built building; a refurbished old building, or a Leased facility. Who will own the equity? Taxpayer's have to pay for it either way. Decision's need to be made.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't basic 'rithmatic be applied "pencil to paper", in a coherent economic equation, of the option's? A speadsheet for financial alternative's? Deterioration doesn't wait for indecision. If the building's get condemned, service's will be disrupted.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Ken on the bridges. That should be a federal and state obligation. The county will be broke fixing all these bridges. Someone needs to see our legislative leaders and
Get some
Help..&

Anonymous said...

Face it Kraft, Stoffa did nothing for 7 and a half years and it's YOUR fault.

Anonymous said...

Jim Gregory shares some of the blame too!

Ken Kraft said...

We OWN the bridges, we need to maintain them. Again I am amazed at the stuff people don't know, yet comment with such conviction and authority