These and many other questions will be answered during four public meetings in all corners of Northampton County over the next few weeks. At a news conference today, Council President Ron Angle stated that anyone with concerns or questions can have them answered by people who've gone through the process in other Counties. Here's the schedule:
Wednesday, November 3, 7 PM: Northampton Borough Hall, 1401 Laubach Avenue, Northampton, PA
Thursday, November 11, 7 PM: Hanover Township Municipal Building, 3630 Jacksonville Road, Bethlehem, PA.
Tuesday, November 16, 7 PM: Bangor Borough Beehive, 197 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bangor, PA
Wednesday, November 17, 7 PM: Chrin Community Center, 4100 Green Pond Road, Palmer, PA 18045.
Angle also announced that RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for the sale of Gracedale will go out November 15, be back December 15, and could be sold a few weeks later.
"What the average voter needs to know is that if Gracedale isn't sold, there is a major problem here," said Angle. "If it is sold, there will be an orderly transfer of ownership from the County to a private industry, nobody will even notice it's done, the sign will remain the same, probably the people will stay the same, and it will be an orderly transition."
Angle also stated that a sale would remove 40% of the County's payroll and put them in the private sector.
"You go around the country today and everybody's screaming, 'We've got too much government.' I think Northampton County in the end may be a role model for those people around the country. ... People all across the nation are demanding that government cut back the size of government. In Northampton County, we are cutting back the size of government. And we're not doing it by creating unemployment. We're doing it by getting government out of areas that it don't belong into, and better taking care of areas that it does belong into."
Thirty-eight of Pennsylvania's sixty-seven Counties have no County-run nursing home. Twenty-one of these Counties have sold or privatized their nursing homes.
Angle called the group promoting an initiative (referendum) on Gracedale "radical" because it's a "small-minded group of people who do not care about the other 300,000 taxpayers of this County. They only see what they want to see. They don't care about anybody else. I don't have that luxury."
Asked about a union plan to send circulators to polling precincts to solicit signatures, Angle noted that they must stay "X number of feet" away from the poll and not interfere with people's right to vote.
"I doubt whether they'd worry about trespassing. Frankly, they blocked the entrances and exits of Gracedale last Sunday, shoving literature, 'Vote for Charlie Dertinger,' so I'm sure the union isn't too interested in what the law says."
Harshly criticized at several recent County Council meetings by Gracedale advocates, Angle answered his detractors. "When you're a leader, there's people who are going to throw rocks at you. It's good to know, though, that in the United States of America and Northampton County, there's a few leaders left who can take the rock throwing to do what's right. It's that simple."
Angle plans to sell more than Gracedale. He is currently conferring with County officials to sell the Bechtel (Bethlehem) and Wolf (Easton) buildings - which he called "money pits" - and then consolidate Human Services under one roof on the remainder of the Gracedale campus.