But they had plenty to say about stray cats. In a new agreement with the Center for Animal Health & Welfare, a successor to the SPCA, Bethlehem Township will be charged $100 for every stray cat and dog from the Township, whether brought in by the police or a private citizen. In 2009, that fee was just $50, according to Township Manager Howard Kutzler. This year, the Township has already been billed $7,000. "That's a lot of money," complained Commissioner Thomas Hudak, who added that many of the strays being brought in are cats. "How menacing is a cat?" he asked. President Arthur Murphy, however, could see no way around it. "We really have no choice," he argued, and Commissioners voted to execute a new agreement, with only Hudak dissenting.
With feral cats out of the way, Attorney Stan Margle briefed Commissioners on the confusing status of two lawsuits involving developer Abe Atiyeh. One arises out of a controversial treatment center proposed along Fritch Drive, recently approved by Judge Michael Franciosa, on condition that it be a County-run facility. Because Northampton County has now prefers West Easton over Fritch Drive, Atiyeh has appealed a settlement agreement in which he himself participated.
A second lawsuit, which involves Atiyeh's contention that zoning fails to provide for a prison, has led Margle to suggest amending the Township Zoning Ordinance to give Commissioners, and not the Zoning Hearing Board, the final say in these matters. Although they decided to wait for a decision from Judge Franciosa, Commissioner Paul Weiss stated that they, and not the Zoning Hearing Board, should make the call on the policy matters that arose with the proposed treatment center.
Having dealt with strays and Abe Atiyeh, the final problem tackled by Commissioners was the Bethlehem Public Library. President Murphy, unhappy with the increasing annual contribution, set for next year at $375,000.
Commissioner Thomas Nolan said that a library "is very useful. They afford opportunities for a lot of people on a lot of different levels, so you just don't say 'Let's go.'" He added that Bethlehem Township had opted out of the library many years before but has been a member since 1987. "We're not in 1987 anymore," answered President Murphy. "There's a thing called the Internet. ... Kids are no longer using the library for their research."
Commissioners will next meet on Monday, December 1, at 7:00 P.M. in the Main Meeting Room at the Bethlehem Township Municipal Building.