|Darlene Heller (L) and Alicia Karner (R)|
Karen Collis out it succinctly when the Board met on March 23. "As of now, there's $88." she said, referring to the amount of money in the restricted fund used for the first and possibly only round off grants.
"Thanks for coming!" John Dally wisecracked to the applicants in the audience.
By law, the first round of grants must go to Bethlehem, Northampton County and the five municipalities surrounding Bethlehem. These are Hanover Township, Bethlehem Township, Lower Saucon Township and Freemansburg and Hellertown. To be awarded a grant, they must show they've been impacted by gambling. If any money is left over, it can be awarded to other municipalities.
This year's grant applications are as follows
Bethlehem. - The Christmas City is seeking nearly half of the $1.6 million expected this year. It also is impacted more heavily than any other municipality. It wants $400,000 for a $1.2 million 95' aerial bucket truck. This vehicle will be able to respond to the casino within four minutes if called into service. It is asking for $130,000 to rechassis an aging 2007 ambulance. EMT Tom Decker told the Board that 7.5% of the ambulance call volume is for the casino. Finally, Planning Director Darlene Heller and DCED Director Alicia Karner pitched a $250,000 proposal for improvements to the South Bethlehem greenway. Karner called this a positive impact of the casino because many casino employees are using the greenway,located between 3rd and 4th streets, to walk to work.
Tom Nolan was dubious, stating that it is "difficult" for him to see what connection the greenway has to the casino. "I find it difficult to connect the dots," he groused. Karner connected them,noting that people who live in South Bethlehem neighborhoods use the greenway to get to their job at the casino. "When the Bethlehem Steel was there, they all walked," added Jerry Yob,
Bethlehem Tp. - Three grants are being sought for the purchase of two police vehicles ($101,528), 15 new defibrillators ($23,514) and replacement of a 2007 ambulance ($120,200). Capt. Greg Gottschall explained that the new cruisers will replace the oldest vehicles, which are seven years old. He added that the defibrillators need to be replaced because of changes in the software.Finally, ambulance officials told the Board that they responded to 842 calls in Bethlehem last year, most of them on the South Side.
Freemansburg. - Chief Todd Pantuso did the talking, and is asking for $102,988 for an enhancement to operational technology. Freemansburg's Main Street is taken as a short cut to the casino, the Chief explained. He's seen the traffic triple since his arrival 1 1/2 years ago. DUI and drug arrests have increased as well. While dealing with increased crime and traffic, his computer system has frozen several times. No data has been lost.
Hanover Tp. - Director of Administration Ryan Kish wants $42,000 for a Chevy Tahoe to be driven by one of the Township's three emergency management professionals. He also is asking for $8,800 for crash and crime scene software.
Kish's proposal is just a fraction of the cost for a similar software program sought and obtained by Palmer Tp Police last year. Kish explained he was trying to find an inexpensive program. "The way it looks, you found it," noted John Dally.
Less complimentary was Tom Nolan. He questioned whether this software can legally be purchased for Colonial Regional Police when two of the municipalities that it serves are not impacted communities. He also questioned the need for an emergency management official to drive around in a Chevy Tahoe.
Hellertown.- Nobody needs a traffic study to know that traffic is congested in Hellertown, especially coming from South Bethlehem, where the casino is located. Chief Robert Shupp told the Board that there;'s now prostitution, daytime DUIs and he even seized an illegal poker machine from a local business. He's seeking funding for two police officers at $207,034.
Lower Saucon. - Chief Guy Lesser would like to fund a police officer ($101,897) and wants to replace a Ford Interceptor Van ($30,294) that is 2 1/2 years old and has more than 100,000 miles.
Northampton County. - Drug and Alcohol Administrator Tiffany Rossanese is seeking $143,765 this year for gambling addiction treatment and support services. She believes the county needs to do more to identify problem gamblers and provide more education to the community. In addition to transitional housing, the county supports three recovery centers, and assists addicts with job placement and even interviews.
These grants could be awarded in April. It will be up to Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Tom Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Jay Finnigan (Hanover), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Dave Willard (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth).