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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Northampton County's New Council is Paying Attention

Seven of nine Council members.

That's how many showed up for yesterday's combined meeting of Northampton County Council's personnel and finance committees. Peg Ferraro, who was recently hospitalized, was unable to make it. I hope she's doing well. Lamont McClure was absent, as usual.

After about an hour, it dawned on me that this new Council, with three brand new members, is taking its job very seriously. County Executive John Stoffa is more relaxed and willing to share opinions. Council Prez Angle and Stoffa enjoy tormenting each other, but are basically on the same side. Council is wary of spending any money.

It's been a good start.

Council busily reviewed a proposed bridge easement over Fry's Run, trying to get a little more money than the $11,000 offered. A report about new Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds prompted them to make sure that all municipalities get notice of their availability. Barb Thierry closely questioned a $305,000 no-bid contract for additions to the camera system at the jail. "It's a lot of money and they know they have no competition." A proposed new food vendor at the jail was treated skeptically by John Cusick. "Those are the people you got rid of in the first place."

Cusick also wanted to talk about the County's contract with Iron Mountain for archives, questioning whether renewals should be approved by Council. That prompted the rest of them to clamor for a separate archives building.

"How big should it be?" asked Stoffa. "Everybody wants a building. Do you start with a little building and then add on?" Stoffa told Council that the state is studying the County's archive needs at no cost, and will have a report within a month. Some members of the Stoffa administration have advocated storing as much information as possible on the hard drives of computers, which are much smaller than temperature and humidity controlled buildings.

Council also complained about leasing storage space for Gracedale supplies. "We have 100 acres up there," commented Cusick, who said it should be cheaper in the long run to just build a new storage facility.

The final item discussed was the swaption, adopted during the Reibman era in 2003 for a quick $1.9 million. In return, the County gave Merrill Lynch the right to insist next year that the County refinance its $111 million bond at a variable interest rate. One way to minimize the cost is to refund about $10 million of the bond now, which could somehow end up saving the County $4.5 million. Angle suggested it might be cheaper to just take out a short-term loan, and Barb Thierry wondered about taking some money from the general fund.

Whatever is done, it has to be done soon. Council member Bruce Gilbert, a banker, warned that interest rates should start climbing in the next quarter.

"It was a good meeting," John Stoffa smiled, on his way out of the star chamber.

Obviously, this Council is no rubber stamp, but the acrimony that went on over the past four years seems to be winding down.

That's bad news for me, so I'll just make shit up.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Angle/Stoffa marriage is finally consummated by the obedient little acolytes on County Council.

Anonymous said...

"Angle and Stoffa enjoy tormenting each other, but are basically on the same side." Wouldn't that describe all of Angle's good relationships?

Anonymous said...

"Council is wary of spending any money."


I know it's early, but it's almost hard to believe my eyes. Imagine a world where politicians act responsibly with taxpayers' money. So far, so good.

Anonymous said...

We've always had a nice house, it was just that we had that filthy DERT floor.

Now that the hardwood has been installed, good things are ahead.

Anonymous said...

This great new council started last year, with the addition of Jerry and Joe. Maybe it was Nieper and Grube, not just Dirtinger? Maybe Ron is playing nice because he's president? The planets are aligned.

Hell, the Saints won the super bowl. Stranger things have happened.

Anonymous said...

Hey BO what about the approx.900,000.00 the county has budgeted for the prison kitchen but just sits on it and does nothing with,as for Stoffa he should have told the democratic comitte he was really a republican!!!!

Anonymous said...

BO iknow this has nothing to do with this subject,but why dont you go to anymore prison board meetings.

Anonymous said...

"I'll just make shit up."

So what is new?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I went to the prison board to help Lorena Hacker, andprison officials agreed to get her examined by an outside physician. I have since met a former inamte and am learning wehat happens there from her persepective.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Hey BO what about the approx.900,000.00 the county has budgeted for the prison kitchen but just sits on it and does nothing with"

Had you attended yestersday's finance committee, you would know some kitchen improvements have eeen made and the roof is complete.

Born To Be Mild said...

Sorry I wasn't there, but - an "archives building"?

What century is this? Convert archives to digital and "store" on a thumbdrive in a drawer.

Hello?

Anonymous said...

Converting everything to digital is a great idea; however, the state has a county records manual that defines record retention requirements. Some records must be kept permanently.

Anonymous said...

"I went to the prison board to help Lorena Hacker, and prison officials agreed to get her examined by an outside physician. I have since met a former inamte and am learning wehat happens there from her persepective."

How exactly did you help her? I am certain you had nothing to do with it. Maybe you can help next time she goes to jail. And I can only assume the "former inmate" is the one you wrote the article about last week and then later disabled comments on it?

Anonymous said...

This council has done absolutely nothing thus far. I don't see how that is a good thing. Shouldn't we be moving forward and improving. Simply not spending money does not make them a great council. Lets wait and see what happens when problems come up. It is far to early to blow them just yet.

Anonymous said...

"BO iknow this has nothing to do with this subject,but why dont you go to anymore prison board meetings?"

Probably because there is nothing going on there that he can take undue credit for. Besides illegally smuggling a recording device in a correctional facility has already been done.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How exactly did you help her?"

By drawing public attention to her plight.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"illegally smuggling a recording device in a correctional facility has already been done."

The only illegal act that occurred was the Prison Advisory Board's refusal to allow a video recording of their meeting.

lighthouse said...

"This council has done absolutely nothing thus far. I don't see how that is a good thing. Shouldn't we be moving forward and improving. Simply not spending money..." Anon 3:16

There is wisdom in realizing that there are times to take advantage of good revenue flow to accomplish things, and times to acknowlege economic realities and do only whats necessary. Isn't that what responsible parents teach their children--that there is a difference between wants and needs?

Anonymous said...

My point was they have done nothing to be applauded for, nor have they done anything to be bitched at for. Aside from a forged Will there has been little to talk about with council. Then again the Will has nothing to do with council. Strike that.

Anonymous said...

Record retention buildings, if necessary, should be on the worst possible buildable ground that can be found. Just like maintenance garages.

Do not waste prime RE on this stuff.

Anonymous said...

"The only illegal act that occurred was the Prison Advisory Board's refusal to allow a video recording of their meeting."

You denying the fact that you had a recording device after being asked specifically if you did may not be illegal, but it is immoral at the least. Then again I guess we have to consider who it is we are speaking about. It is not the fact that the device was permitted or not, it was your denial that you had one, and that you smuggled it into a correctional facility.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You really are out of your mind. I was never once asked whether I had a recording device, nor was I searched. A prison advisory board member, who was with me when I walked in, confirmed that during the meeting.

You statement is just another bald-faced lie.

Anonymous said...

First off the prison advisory board was discontinued via a referendum in 98 or 99...it was the outcome of the prison becoming a Dept. of Corrections.

The meetings that are happening wouldn't mean anything in the court of law. I will do my best to produce the referendum as it should be on file somewhere.

So if you care to get technical the meeting you attended did not and should not have been to discuss business of the county and should not have been covered under your coveted sunshine act. If you don't believe me you can find the referendum as well.

Anonymous said...

"Simply not spending money does not make them a great council."


Yes it does. I'm ready to re-elect them already.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The prison advisory board is still an agency as that term is defined in the Sunshine Act. Its members are nominated by the exec and confirmed by council. They make recommendations to the council and exec that involve the expenditure of county money. They are covered by the Sunsshine Act, and your attempt to argue otherwise is a betrayal of your own ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Again, as I said they were to be no more per a referendum in 1998 or 1999 when the prison became a DOC. The admin decided to keep them on as a inmate grievance committee. They have no decision making powers what so ever regardless of what they may think. I will be researching and looking for the referendum as I said. If I come across it I will get it to you. I think it is an interesting story.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Stoffa and the County Council. If inactivity and lethargy is a goal, these guys take the Gold!

Anonymous said...

BO it is my understanding that the prison board was voted out and a department of corrections was to formed.The department of corrections was to consist of a director,warden and a deputy warden.Can you or anyone else tell me why this board is still hanging around,thinking they are really important.What about that referendum vote doesnt it count!!!!!!!!