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Monday, August 10, 2015

43 Communities To Apply For $1.3 Million in NorCo CIPP Grants

Northampton County's Community Investment Partnership Program (CIPP) was just announced in January, but is going full speed ahead. Executive John Brown plans to use table games revenue from the Sands Casino for a variety of grants and revolving loans, with an emphasis on aging boroughs and townships. At a meeting of County Council's Economic Development Committee on August 6, county officials disclosed that 43 municipalities have already given notice that they intend to apply for $1.3 million in grants for various projects.Though these applications will be ranked by county staffers, Council will have the final say on how to spend the $500,000 set aside by Brown for these grants.

Community and Economic Development (CED) Director Diane Donaher had stated in January that 80% of the funding would be directed at boroughs and townships "that lack access to resources. .. They don't have staff. They don't have funding." But in response to concerns raised by Council that the cities were being ignored, Donaher added $150,000 to the program for Bethlehem ($100,000) and Easton ($50,000). Those will be urban block grants. Community Development Administrator Lori Sywensky explained that this would "make sure cities have access to some of the resources available, but not to the detriment of the smaller communities."

In contrast to smaller communities, neither Bethlehem nor Easton will be required to match the block grants.

"Our neighborhood NIZ is stealing businesses from the area, complained Ken Kraft, referring to Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone, where $54 million in state tax dollars to date have been diverted for an arena and several office buildings. He explained that some of Bethlehem's money will fund a city position to retain local businesses.

In addition to these community grants, $100,000 has been set aside for job creation.. CED staffer Mark Hartney, who explained that those grants are "based on opportunity," is currently working with four companies. Three of these are looking to expand and the fourth is an international company seeking to relocate to Northampton County. One condition of this grant is that any job created must pay at least $19.18 per hour, which is 80% of the Northampton County median income. "I think it's important to attract quality jobs," Hartney argued. It's unclear, however, whether any job creation grant includes a clawback provision that would enable the County to get its money back for an empty promise.

In addition to what is now $650,000 in grants, the CIPP program will include a $500,000 revolving loan fund for business gap loans. Donaher suggested that Council provide the County's General Purpose Authority with $500,000, and trust their "expertise and professionalism" in awarding and monitoring these loans. Two members of the County's General Purpose Authority - Mike Dowd and Neal Koplin - explained how they would administer the fund and repayment structures.

"Does council want to be reviewing 25 or 30 financial statements?" asked Dowd, himself a former Council President. Though Ken Kraft called gap loans risky, Koplin indicated that there would be collateral for these loans

After the CIPP presentation, Donaher countered criticisms that her 8-person office has failed to produce a single job, except for the ones in her own department. She indicated they are currently working with 26 businesses, including three manufacturers and a health facility.

 "This is what we do everyday," she  argued.

$35,000 Grant to Lehigh County Business explained

Donaher did come under some criticism for a $35,000 grant that Executive John Brown recently authorized for a business located in Whitehall. The money went to Restore, a nonprofit associated with the Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity, for the start up costs that would enable it to recycle latex paint. Restore is located at the old Circuit City business and is mostly staffed by volunteers.  

Environmental Services Coordinator Ken Zinis informed Council that complaints about latex paint disposal are among the most "common calls we get from our residents.".

Bob Werner took issue with giving this money away without at least informing Council. "I want to make sure there's accountability," he insisted.

After determining that Lehigh County's made no contribution, Scott Parsons asked why  Northampton County is funding a Lehgh County business

"I've been waiting for that question," answered Sywensky. "Habitat for Humanity is a Valley-wide entity." She added that Restore is "actually a nonprofit. ... We looked at the greater regional good here."

Sywensky got a little help from Kraft.

"It's a very advantageous thing for us because we were throwing it in landfills and nobody knows what to do with it. Everybody has latex paint. ... It's a really good program and I'm 100% for it." Restore just happens to be the location where the paint is recycled. Hopefully, in the future, we can use that paint here, in our offices."


Anonymous said...

The paint could be used to cover the faded area on the wall where Banal had the 10 Commandments.

Anonymous said...

Clever play on Mat's (that's with one t dammit) name. Kraft is nuts to defend DCED's waste of $35k on an out of county project. Why doesn't the bloated DCED staff find a way to recycle tires, a much bigger landfill issue?

Anonymous said...

Hoping that Northampton County fully directs these funds to communities that lack resources like the Boroughs, Slate Belt Townships and maybe the cities. No more money to the millionaire communities like Palmer, Hanover, Bethlehem, and Lower Saucons!! Its time that Pen Argyl, Bangor, East Bangor, West Easton's of the County finally get some priority!

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem and Easton are already getting substantial separate targeted funding from gaming via the state legislation. Now they getting even more on top of that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"No more money to the millionaire communities like Palmer, Hanover, Bethlehem, and Lower Saucons!! "

Since this is the first ever distribution of monies from table games, excepting the $35,000 that Brown already gave to Easton for a trolley, I have no idea what you mean. Palmer is fairly urbanized, as is Bethlehem Tp and Hanover. So I have no idea what you mean there, either.

Anonymous said...

6:22 a.m. Just because they have effective and efficient governments don't pick on Hanover, Bethlehem, and Lower Saucon. Perhaps Pen Argyl, Bangor, East Bangor, and West Easton can share some of the grant monies that the other communities can't receive because of demographics. On a per capita basis Pen Argyl, Bangor, East Bangor and West Easton get more grants that the other communities. Know the facts before you spew!

TJD said...

I count 38 municipalities in Northampton County (http://www.northamptoncounty.org/countyguide/cwp/view.asp?a=1546&Q=622912). Assume a 'community' is defined differently?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Some communities have more than one. I don't know if school districts applied.

Anonymous said...

If Brown cannibalizes all the available revenue from the 1/2 mill we pay for Open Space for 2016, the same way he did in 2015, Council won't be able to make up for his ignorant stupidity the way they did in 2015 - by going to the table games fund.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Just a question about the Paint Recycling Program of Habitat for Humanity that just got a $35,000 grant from NorCo DCED and its relationship to The Paint Exchange LLC. Doing a little web searching I found the following:

From an profile of an employee of The Paint Exchange on LinkedIn:

"The goal of The Paint Exchange, LLC is to provide an environmentally friendly paint product using post-consumer materials. Our supply comes from organizations and individuals wishing to dispose of their leftover latex paint in a responsible fashion. As "mixologists" we inspect, sort, filter and consolidate all paint that is received and blend it into a palette of 15 colors. reColor paint is stocked by Habitat for Humanity ReStores and various other design and building materials outlets in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine."

From The Paint Exchange LLC Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Paint-Exchange/169706141315

"The Paint Exchange at Habitat Lehigh Valley ReStore July 30th: "We are thrilled to announce the launch of our partnership with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania! With support from Northampton County Pennsylvania we will be collecting leftover latex paint in Northampton County and producing recolor with and for the ReStore. Keeping it local, keeping it
green, supporting Habitat for Humanity and getting a great product to the Lehigh Valley Community. Win win win!"

The Paint Exchange, LLC is located in Rockland, MA. Is the NorCo grant helping a Lehigh County nonprofit organization and also subsidizing a for profit company located in Massachusetts? Details given at the DCED meeting were vague at best...

This is the Homepage for The Paint Exchange, LLC:


Bernie O'Hare said...

The above comment comes from a reader unable to submit it, so I loaded it for the reader.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a noble cause. Other than their consulting fee, how else does The Paint Exchange profit? What is their deal with licensed retailers like ReStore? Do they receive a royalty per gallon of paint sold? If so, than all Norco DCED is doing is giving a grant to a Lehigh County business which in turn pays a royalty to a Massachusetts business. Real good use of county gaming dollars! Create ZERO jobs for the county while helping others outside the county to profit.

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION - landfill tipping fees used for this project. Still county dollars leaving the county to profit non-county businesses...