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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Residents Upset at $2.5 MM Pricetag for Community Center Repairs

About 45 residents unhappy with $2.5 MM Prictetag for Community Center repairs
On July 18, a crowd of about 45 Bethlehem Township residents packed into its cavernous meeting room to listen to Entech Engineering's Ryan Kennedy explain that $2.5 million in improvements are needed for the Township's ten-year old community center. Of these, about 15 high-priority projects have been identified that need to be addressed immediately. The cost? $1.5 million. The audience was incredulous that a ten-year old building that cost $10.3 million to build would already need renovations amounting to 25% of its original cost. The Township is also shackled by a $725,000 annual mortgage on the 50,000 sq ft facility.

Entech's Ryan Kennedy
The biggest problem flagged by Kennedy is the metal roof over the facility's natatorium, where gutters were improperly sloped, leading to pockets of standing water that seep into the building.

"This just seems to be negligence," complained Craig Storrs, who also questioned whether township officials inspected the work in 2006. "We've already had one instance of a contractor defrauding the Township," he added, referring to the streetlight scam that cost the township over $800,000.

Solicitor Jim Broughal rejected suggestions that the Township sue over improper design or poor workmanship. "Construction litigation is extremely expensive," he observed, noting that the Township would be required to hire an architect to act as an expertt witness and could lose in a counterclaim. But Broughal, and no one else for that matter, was able to answer whether any of the material or work was under warranty. 'how long has this been going on and you don't know if you had a warranty?" asked Ron Ford.

Barry Roth complained that on his own tour of the facility, he noticed that a stairwell is coming from the wall. "Who was watching these guys?" he asked.

George Olson suggested that instead of telling residents that they should have saved money that could have gone to tax hikes, the Township should just sell the center. "I'm sick and tired of politicians telling me what to do with my money," he said. He also suggested that the township raise membership rates to pay for repairs.

"I smell another big tax increase coming," said Lorenzo Queral.

Township officials countered it's too soon to predict whether there will be a tax hike next year.

Queral and Olson also complained about the cost of participating in the Bethlehem Area Public Library. Queral complained that the library is supported by the "elite few," and that library advocate Tom Nolan is looking at this issue with "prejudiced eyes. He predicted that, in a referendum, the township would opt out of the library.

Malissa Davis said that she would prefer to see the cost based on users of the library instead of the number of residents, but said that is barred by the Library Code. Pointing to the $17 per capita annual cost of the library, she said it's aboiut $1.50 per month. "That's a candy bar," she said.

Broughal told Queral and Olson that a library referendum would be illegal, but must have been referring to a nonbinding referendum, disfavored by courts as "advisory opinions." Bethlehem Township has had five library referenda. They are specifically permitted by the Library Code. if the question is phrased to impose a tax for the library.

"If we had one, I think it would probably pass," said Bill Berry, himself a former Commissioner.

Commissioners Mike Hudak and Kim Jenkins were absent.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

No mention of selling the money pit (Pat Breslin)? 2 commissioners absent, sup with that?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

What a shocking story. What about the township's building inspector!

Anonymous said...

get cathy allen on this immediately and vote Trump

Anonymous said...

Sounds like three stooges construction. Anybody who approved or allowed this shoody construction should be FIRED. But government protects its own!

Anonymous said...

This is what you get when you go for the lowest bidder and try to build stuff with contractors who get the workers off of CraigsList They should have hired local building trades workers, then this building would not have these legacy costs

If your looking to blame someone blame your Coincil Members, they approved the contractors by chasing the lowest bid.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

They were forced to build this, so they did it as cheap as possible, and now we have This. Now my taxes go up to pay

Anonymous said...

Pat Breslin needs to figure out the 1st class township code so he knows what can and can't be done. Litigating this mess is like a dog chasing it's tail. Ever watch that Mr. Breslin?

Anonymous said...

The finger points back to the manager at the time Jon Hammer, the same incompetent idiot who handed over 1 million dollars of our tax money to the streetlight scammers. This guy should be taken to task for what he has done!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Who knew there was a "Library Code"?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted a few comments that drifted off into a paid fire department, which has nothing to do with this story.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Who knew there was a "Library Code"?"

Perhaps you should go to the library more often.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:30 am, If you want to engage in a disgusting personal attack, you will identify yourself.

Anonymous said...

Melissa Shaffer and the 2 previous Twp managers are complete failures! She not leading the Twp as a manager should and needs to be fired immediately!

Anonymous said...
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Bernie O'Hare said...

I am not going to allow anonymous slurs against people based on how they look. Try that somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

2:50 Kind of harsh on Melissa, being she had nothing to do with the Community Center, however; you are correct about the 2 previous Twp Managers - COMPLETE FAILURES!

Anonymous said...

@3:55 I agree...to blame Melissa is unfair, she has only been manager for two years. She's taking a lot of flack for problems that existed long before she arrived. The Community Center has always been a political hot potato. The problems with the center only continued to get worse because previous boards and managers chose to not deal with them. Melissa has done her due diligence as township manager to bring the problems to light and seek solutions...I call that Leadership.

Anonymous said...

Trying to blame the current or former Township Managers for this debacle is like trying to blame the milk delivery guy for delivering bad milk. Make no mistake about it that the Board of Commissioners runs and has always ran the show in that Township down to whether radio is bought for a police car. The Board of Commissioners makes all minor and major decisions and to use a staffer as a scapegoat shows ignorance of how a local government is run. If you do this is you might as well roll in the lawyer and engineer. If these local elected people would allow their managers to actually manage, the likelihood of these issues would be close to zero. Signed a Township Resident who knows how these local governments are run.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't blame the current or former Manager or even the current or former Boards. I'd need to know a lot more before even thinking a little bit in that direction. From what I know of the current and previous two managers, I personally believe they were all consummate professionals who worked hard and performed outstanding service. Also, previous board members all worked very hard to keep a lid on costs. I'd need to know a lot more before blaming anyone. In the final analysis, it might just be that there is no one to blame. If there is, I'd need to see the proof before wagging my finger.

I do think that Tp officials should have contemplated the kinds of questions that would be asked last night and be ready for them. They sat there like deer caught in the headlights when asked simple questions about warranties, how much was still owed at the community center and different options to pay for these renovations. That just made people who were already angry even more angry. I do think that having the engineer present to make a presentation and answer questions was a great idea. I'd like to know why they met with the engineer in executive session first. That seems a bit odd to me, and I heard nothing from Broughal to indicate they had met in executive session. But these are minor criticisms.

Anonymous said...

There is a "blame game" Bernie and you of all people are aware of it. This stuff just doesn't happen and someone has to take/accept the blame and here, it's the Twp manager. She's simply showing up for work and most likely working on her resume knowing it's a sinking failing ship / local government. Look at the monthly bills, she needs to stop the unnecessary spending, get a grip on the public works, sewer and police department director's and make sure they know who the boss is and she's not and letting them run the sinking ship...

Bernie O'Hare said...

You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. You cite the monthly bills as proof that things are out of hand. The truth is that the monthly bills are about the same now as they were under Howard and, before him, Jon Hammer. So the facts actually defeat your argument instead of making it. From time to time, I've seen one member of the public question bills. That's Barry Roth. I see no other member of the public do so. Never. What's stopping you?It's east to come on a blog and make all kinds of anonymous claims. It's more productive to go to a meeting and give specifics to support your argument. If your arguments have any validity, you will have done your job as a citizen. if they don't, you'll find out. I also see comm'rs who occasionally question line items. I agree there needs to be more scrutiny, but that requires you to come to meetings and actually participate in your government. It sounds to me that you are a master of the "blame game." In the final analysis, the fault lies with you. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Instead of railing anonymously here, participate in your government. Even if you are full of shit, you will at least learn that you are. Chances are you will find some waste.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone talking about something they know nothing about.

Anonymous said...

I think someone needs to request the inspection reports. Either the township engineer or township staff had to sign off as it was built.

Anonymous said...

Inspection reports! They don't exist. Twsp inspectors were told to stay off the site.

Bernie O'Hare said...

What is your evidence to support this claim? Who told inspectors to stay away? How do you know this? If what you say is true, that is very disturbing. But is it true or are you talking out of your ass?

Anonymous said...

"Construction litigation is extremely expensive." OK Jim, and $2.5 million in repairs is cheap? Reading the engineer's report, it is very clear that the construction methods were defective. I get it, you're past retirement age and not really up for a fight at this point.

Anonymous said...

Construction litigation IS extremely expensive, especially 10 years after the fact, and you rarely win.

Anonymous said...

@7:14,
There's little one can do when it comes to the PD and PW. They have a collective bargaining agreement.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:08, Jim Broughal just happens to be the lawyer who took on the NIZ and won. He is smart and is a Vietnam War vet who never backed away from a fight, while you can't even say who you are. And he is absolutely right when he says construction litigation is expensive. He also pointed out that there would be a likely countersuit, and if the township lost that, it would have spent money for the renovations, money for the lawsuit and money to pay off the judgment as the loser. Then you'd be screaming that he should have warned you what could happen. He did his job. He is not there to bend and sway with the wind, but provide legal advice, and does an excellent job.

Anonymous said...

When you say there is no one to blame, I would hope you are excluding the township personnel because whoever built the center is very much to blame. It would be interesting to know if similar problems occurred on sites built by the same contractors.

Anonymous said...

File an open records request Mr. O'Hare.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have done so.

Records requested:

1) The release to which Solicitor Jim Broughal referred during the July 18, 2016 meeting, concerning the Township Community Center.
2) Any inspection reports of the Township Community Center conducted in 2006 before the facility was opened.