Friday, January 19, 2007

NorCo Council Prez Calls Wind Gap Road a $400 Thousand Mistake

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting1100 high quality jobs. That was the promise six years ago. The county would kick in $3 million for a road from its $111 million megabond. Developer Nolan Perin would do the rest. Heavy industrial hitters would soon be in the slate belt.

Today, there's still no road. Not even a sewage permit. No highway occupancy permit. The best Perin could do, was a temporary driveway permit, and that didn't happen until December.

Instead of those well paid industrial positions, Perin lured yet another Wal-Mart and Lowes to the Lehigh Valley. Industrial development suddenly morphed into mostly commercial development with low-paying jobs. Slate Belt residents erupted. County council nevertheless remained committed to its $3 million investment. It was happy to destroy environmentally sensitive lands in the 'burbs for jobs that pay less than a courthouse worker's shrinking salary.

This became an issue in the last county council campaign. Lamont McClure demanded that council show "leadership to preserve the quality of life in the Slate Belt and take back this bond money now." He was joined by Charles Dertinger and Diane Neiper, but they all mysteriously changed their minds once they were in office. The resisted repeated attempts to transfer that money to other capital projects with major cost overruns.

While county council nixed any attempt to kill this project, over $440,000 in bond money was wasted on engineering studies.

Last week, Wal-Mart nixed the project itself. It's not coming. Nothing is. The only business in six years at this site is a scrap metal business owned by developer Perin. It employs less than thirty workers. Perin remains convinced he can make a go of things.

Council chambers were packed last night with seventy people demanding that this insanity stop. And Council may finally see the light at the end of this road to nowhere. They appear ready to yank the remaining money. Council member Tony Branco reported that he took a little tour of the site last weekend, and noticed that nothing has happened since July.

But Council Prez Wayne Grube, previously a stubborn supporter of this project, has finally thrown in the towel. His own words.

"This was a mistake. We've had it with that project. We've heard it four or five times. Let's go do what has to be done to try and recoup our money. I've had it. I openly admit that I made a mistake, and that'll be on our boy's blog tomorrow."

Gee, thanks, Wayne! I didn't know you cared.

Grube openly admits making an error that cost taxpayers $440,000. And his backroom maneuver to replace Ann McHale as VP has alienated me and many others. But even I would agree he's being a little tough on himself. He honestly believed something good would come from this investment. He's been sold a bill of goods, and is now courageous enough to admit it. Who can't admire and respect that? Grube is the only member of any council I've watched who can admit when he screws up. And he screws up a lot. But it's still refreshingly honest. Having said that, I hope he makes every effort to get the remaining $2.6 million back in county coffers. We'd all agree that a $440,000 mistake is infinitely preferable to one that costs us $3 million.

Speaking of mistakes, Councilman Lamont McClure is hot on the trail over that $100,000 theft from the criminal division. Of course, someone has been charged and is being prosecuted. But that won't stop Lamont. Last night he was tongue-lashing Controller Paul Schimmel. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the elections this year. Just good government. More about his bullying next week.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the update Bernie - I've been waiting for the results of the meeting to appear on your blog for a couple of hours :)

We are sidelined here with a stomach virus or I would've been down. Any clue as to when they will actually take action on this?

Anonymous said...

it would appear that perin played a little bait and switch with the county.

Anonymous said...

Nah, a developer wouldn't lie!
Developers don't lie, they just want to improve your community in ways you wouldn't envision! Like scrap yards!

Anonymous said...

"our Boy" O'Hare? aren't you the "cause celebre"! Sounds like Grube might want want to adopt you!- Chris Casey

Bernie O'Hare said...

Windgapper, A revocation of the grant for the road would require an act of "equal dignity" with the act that provided for the grant in the first place. So the revocation would have to be by odrinance. Assuming an ordinance is introduced in on Feb 1, we're talking Feb 15. But I don't know when council will get around to pulling the plug, and can't be certain they won't listern to Perin again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, Grube actually did say that! He must really love me.

LSTresidentPIA said...

Glad to see council recognizing you for the PIA your are. Good for you! What is the history of this deal?

I don't understand why a scrap yard is a bad thing, at lest they are recycling saving valuable natural resources. A landfills is a much worse neighbor and entity.

Bernie O'Hare said...


Everyone had a nice laugh at Grube's remarks last night. And the meeting actually went off fairly well, a vast contrast to the last few. And in truth, my opinions and commentary have no more validity than those held bty another.

Now, whats wrong w/ a scrap yard? Nothing. Except this isn't the kind of job that was promised. And from what I'm told, it's located right where the road is supposed to go. Go figure.

LVDem said...

Good for Wayne. Admitting error is a huge step for many local pols. Glad you got some props Bernie. Now, is there any truth to Ron Angle coming in his new pink thong (that's what Casey said)? Was that why you were so late in posting this one? A bit distracted?

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, Actually, that was me in the pink thong. Chris was still at the Hotel Bethlehem buffet from the rail forum.

Anonymous said...

The only pink thong I saw was on carmen Electra. I don't eat buffets any more, I am on a strict see food diet. and i have never seen Bernie's ass, but Ron Angle is an ass, either way, a pink thong wouldn't cover his nose. maybe he could use it as half a bra.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Admitting error is a huge step for many local pols."
Agreed. That's an important step. But now Grube has to follow through on what he said.

I'll tell you about Grube. I did say that Grube can't control a meeting, and I meant it. I do think he has a tendency to stumble into siutuations in which decisions are made behind closed doors. He very rarely sees things the way I do. Half the time I've known him he refuses to speak to me. And when we are on speaking terms, he does a pretty good job of cutting me down, although I often deserve it. He's no genius, but has always been the hardest working councilman. He talks out of both sides of his mouth like any pol. I've caught him in little lies here and there. But he does have basic integrity. If you sit Angle down, he'll tell you himeslf that Wayne Grube deserves most of the credit for stopping the Solomon excesses. Grube's the one who blew the whistle when accountants learned there might be a problem. And I learned this from conservative Republicans, not Dems.

Grube can be way too partisan, petty and is very old school. He doesn't understand why anyone should pay attention to a mere citizen. He hates meetings that last more than 20 minutes.

The most important thing to remember about that guy is that he will not respect you if you don't stand up to him when you think he's out of line.

I have my disagreements with him, and some of them have been very public differences. I don't think he should be president. Some people just are no good at facilitating. He certainly is one of those. But yes, I always end up voting for him. He drives me nuts, but I know he's a good man. We could use a few more, but not too many or I'd jump off a briudge.

LVDem said...

"All we are saying, is give peace a chance.."

Sorry, just got a very "We are the world" kind of moment. Forgive me.

Anonymous said...

knobie Grube is an asshole. Always was,,always will be.
He was the best football coach the lehigh valley ever saw,,just ask him,,he'll tell you.