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Friday, May 20, 2011

Northampton County Council Tries to Fulfill Gracedale Initiative

It must be really hard to spend a $111 million bond, even for a county government. Ten years after its adoption in 2001, there's still roughly $1.4 million or so left in the till, according to DCED's Alicia Karner. She explained some projects have changed, while others have fallen by the wayside.

Karner told Council that, instead of building a parking lot at Lehigh Riverport, Bethlehem now wants to reallocate some of that money for parking lots at 3rd & Taylor.

That drove Council Prez John Cusick nuts. He complained about spending anything for projects that have never gotten off the ground over the past ten years. He also found it "disgraceful" that County bond money would be spent on a parking lot in South Bethlehem when Gracedale's parking lot now looks like a lunar landscape.

It drove Council member Ron Angle nuts, too. South Bethlehem parking lots pale in contrast to the capital needs at Gracedale.

On Tuesday, voters adopted a Gracedale initiative mandating that the County keep Gracedale for the next five years. That presents a challenge to Council members and Executive John Stoffa, who whether they like it or not, have an obligation to fulfill the people's will.

At last night's Council meeting, Executive John Stoffa reported that he is already in the process of getting private managers for the facility. Ron Angle introduced a three-pronged resolution, which he called a "road map," to get the ball rolling. Under this resolution, the County will (1) strive to maintain a high quality of care at Gracedale; (2) try to divert remaining 2001 bond projects to Gracedale; and (3) establish an account for Gracedale, which may not be raided for other purposes.

Lamont McClure, Ann McHale and Peg Ferraro unsuccessfully tried to keep the bond projects where they are. In McClure's case, he is legitimately concerned that Council do this carefully to avoid liability. For McHale, it's a desire to keep the money flowing to Bethlehem, even if it's for Rhodadendron on Commerce Boulevard. Asked if she preferred that to sending the money to Gracedale, she replied, "Old people like to look at Rhodadendron, too." In Ferraro's case, it appears that her opposition was motivated primarily by disdain for Angle.

Council member Mike Dowd came to Angle's rescue, pointing out that there will be separate ordinances and hearings for each project eliminated, which would answer McClure's concern.

In the end, Council voted 8 to 1 to adopt Angle's resolution, which might free up to $1.4 million for Gracedale capital projects.

In addition, Council members intend to invite state representatives and senators and beg them to give County-owned nursing homes at least as much money in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements as they would get if they were privately owned.Gracedale would have received $4.3 million more in reimbursements last year if it were privately owned.

Despite all these efforts, John Stoffa told Council that he knows of no County in the Commonwealth that breaks even at its nursing home.

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gracedale made millions over the past twenty years. Cedarbrook will finish this year in the black. It finished last year in the black. Problem with Stoffa is he just says things and it is taken as fact.

He is a moron and that is one reason we got to this point.

Is there any chance this boob will resign and go paint birdhouses.

He is a disgrace.

Bernie O'Hare said...

And you are an anonymous coward who has an irrational hatred of a decent man. Cedarbrook finished last year in the black on paper, but that's bc some of its expenses are reflected in the general fund.

Wren Periwal said...

Is McHale senile or just plain ignorant?

Anonymous said...

I'm with Angle. I want everything scrapped to pay for this ridiculousness. I also want a separate account to hold concessions and the saved salaries of the goldbricks we fire. Good work, Ron.

Anonymous said...

Stop raiding Gracedale's accounts and it will be fine. Pretty simple. The voters have spoken. Now, Stoffa, Angle and any others who tried to thwart the will of the voters by keeping this issue off the ballot should not run for re-election. They are obviously out of touch.

Anonymous said...

But $1.6 million only keeps Gracedale on life support till when...August? What about after that? What are they going to do about September?

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain to me how the threat of "refuising new patients" is credible when the exact opposite was suggested as a means to provide more sustainable source of revenue as defined in the Complete Healtcare Resources report?

Anonymous said...

Watched it last night myself. Of course Ron did that......he's thinking of election time! Now he will once again pat himself on the back making it look like he is putting a hand out. A little to late Ron, you should have done that 8 months ago. You wasted alot of time and money fighting. Also it was amazing how he was flipping out about the insurance issue, saying we are breaking our own law. What a phony, remember Ron it happened last year also EXACT same thing while you were president and now it is a big issue for you. Mr. Dowd now wants to look into why the county receives lower funding by medicare/medicaid. Why did they wait until now!!! Amazing how things get rolling when it will be election time and some are worried! Why didn't they listen when people were speaking?

sick of NorCo government and some must go

Anonymous said...

"Dear Harrisburg, Hi! It's Norco. How are you? Listen, hate to bother you but we just voted against privatizing Gracedale and now we're in a pickle cause there is no money left to keep it running. So we realize you have a mandate that gives $4.3 million more to private nursing homes than public and we were just wondering if you could completely change that mandate and give us the extra $4.3 million anyway. We realize that then you'd have to scrap the entire mandate and do the same for every single county that qualifies and it will cost the Commonwealth tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars and you're already bankrupt, but please do it anyway because if we increase taxes or layoff workers it's going to be harder to get re-elected.

Rearranging deck chairs on the Gracedale Titanic, yours truly,
Norco Council"

Anonymous said...

Dear 7:39 am,

Right on! If the Gracedale coalition and the unions involved in this Saving private Gracedale effort don't work their asses off to get Darth Vader deposed in the next election , shame on them! Also, the other excellent point is the issue of Reimburement..If it is absolutely the case that the Feds or State are giving private owners millions more to run the facility than they do the publically owned facilities than that needs to be investigated pronto..However, as you mentioned, that should have been looked into years ago..If not, why not...If it was accepted as a given, then someone in county government is just too damn lazy to do anything about it. Angle and Dowd..Stoffa, I still believe is a decent man..However, he doesnt appear to have the energy anymore to fight for what's right, to fight Angle. He threw his hands up on gracedale, he threw his hands up on the budget, and meekly accepted the alleged fact that private facilities are getting millions more without challenging or fighting the proposition..aLSO, HE LET MILLIONS OF COUNTY DOLLARS IN CASINO MONIES SLIP AWAY TO OTHER MUNICIPALITIES WITHOUT A FIGHT..Yes, Bernie, he's a decent man BUT HAS BEEN APPARENTLY BEEN WORN DOWN BY DARTH VADER.

Anonymous said...

If McHale isn't willing to sacrifice a few flowers in South Bethlehem for Gracedale, do you really think she's going to vote for a tax increase? I think she's already decided to vote layoffs.

Anonymous said...

After ten years it is about time that some of that bond money be devoted to a REAL needs of our county. If it were not for that bond there would have been no need for a swaption. If there was no swaption there would be money from county taxpayers to put toward Gracedale. Bernie, how many people still on council that voted for that bond. Who on council voted for that idiotic swaption?

Bernie O'Hare said...

There are 4 members left on the Council who voted for that swaption. The only one who voted yes is Dowd, and he acknowledges that vote was a mistake.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Watched it last night myself. Of course Ron did that......he's thinking of election time! "

What Angle is doing is trying to think of how best to implement the people's will. They voted to keep Gracedale county-owned. They did not vote for s tax hike, as Ferraro seems to think.

Angle owes the people his best judgment, not putting his finger in the wind. His best judgment is that Gracedale be sold, but the public vote has trumped that judgment. He might disagree with that judgment, but has a obligation to honor the people's will.

So the challenge is to try to find some way of running Gracedale w/o calling for a tax hike. I personally think that will be impossible, but the road map might help.

As for the idea of using bond money to replace the $3 MM need for the rest of the year, bond money cannot be used to pay operating expenses. That money could only go to a capital need like the parking lot or roof or a new sewer system.

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:18,

Whe the voters overwhelmingly voted to save Gracedale they realized that there would be a cost to that..As they did when they decided to fund open space they sent a message loud and clear that they wanted to save Gracedale. The morning call and Express times and John Stoffa made it abundantly clear that a tax increase would be needed if the referendum passed..People voted for it anyway..I'd imagine Ann McCale as will be the case with most Councilpeople with Brains, will pass an increase to fund Gracedale into the foreseeable future..Maybe not because they all want to but maybe because the vast majority of voters in the county essentially told them to do it..People arent as ignorant as Angle and Bernie might think..They didnt need to see it on the ballot. They knew what they were voting for and the repercussions of the vote..One mill in taxes will cost the average taxpayer about $1.00 a week..I believe that they feel that is a small price for the generation that gave so much to us..

Anonymous said...

Lamont Mcclure said on WFMZ the other night when debating Angle that there is money for Gracedale and that the Administration isn't accurate when they say a Gracedale tax is necessary. Why didn't he speak up last night while they were fighting over rhodedendrum seeds? Where is the funding he promised us already exists?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Whe the voters overwhelmingly voted to save Gracedale they realized that there would be a cost to that.."

The initiative says what it says. Keep Gracedale County-owned. It says nothing about a tax hike. So the challenge s to try to find a way to continue running Gracedale w/o an increase in taxes. If that cannot be done, then I would agree there would be a need for a tax hike. I personally think it is impossible and will require a major increase, as Angle warned. But what he and other Council members are doing is the right thing, no matter how you come down. He is trying to defeat his own prediction.

c said...

We need to give County Council at least a chance. Let's not demoralize them right now, it just gets in the way of a good outcome. Give them some time.

Anonymous said...

"Angle owes the people his best judgment, not putting his finger in the wind. His best judgment is that Gracedale be sold, but the public vote has trumped that judgment. He might disagree with that judgment, but has a obligation to honor the people's will."

If he owes us his best judgment, one would think he would have presented a budget that covered Gracedale for the whole year instead of half of the year. The problems now, are the very problems Angle created with HIS budget.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Then vote him out.

Tricia Mezzacappa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I agree with 9:16. This is a huge project. Give Council some time to figure out a strategy to pay for Gracedale. They are bright people.

Union Goon said...

"And he refused to even allow council 2 weeks to reverse their choice."

There is no need for 2 weeks, as they should never have voted it down anyway. It is an arbitration award. Nothing they can do. In fact they have had a month to "reverse their choice" when they never had a choice to start with.

So you are ok with Angle only budgeting 6 months for Gracedale? Seems to be putting the cart before the horse a bit.

Tricia Mezzacappa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Union Goon said...

"I am speaking about style over substance with Mr. Tosti. Poor sportsmanship."

Point taken, things aren't always done correctly on both sides, as much as we would like it to be.

I disagreed with some things along the way, and will continue to do so. Although I am union, I was not involved with the Gracedale issue.

Tricia Mezzacappa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Union Goon said...

I am certainly not Justus. lol

Anonymous said...

At least Angle had the b___s to talk about the big white elephant in the room. The unions will never give back the money and will pressure Council for a tax increase to protect Gracedale jobs so this road-map is leading to a fork in the road, Downsizing Ave. or Tax Increase St. and everyone on the Council is going to have to make a decision where they want to go. Council is doing no one any favors by delaying discussion or decision making on which way they're going to go; especially when I'm sure they each have already decided how they will vote.

Larry Kisslinger said...

BO said; "...Gracedale would have received $4.3 million more in reimbursements last year if it were privately owned".

All along the way, I thought this information should have been front and center on the sell side of the issue (hardly ever mentioned).

I favor unions! However, many of them have gone way overboard with their requests & mostly now only demands to their detriment. More common sense needed, is my opinion.

Also, my opinion, County Executive Stoffa is honest public official as they come and deserves public support. If you don't agree with his policies. just say so is fine.
Name calling and throwing handgrenades toward him, especially anonymously, is childish and cowardly. Just sayin'.

Jordan I from Palmer Twsp said...

Vote for Len Gruppo!

CHEDDAR IS BETTER!

Anonymous said...

Allow me to point out I have been 100% correct in ALL of my predictions involving Gracedale votes, petitions, court challenges....etc. Up to and including correctly predicting , in here a 70-75% YES vote on Tuesday. It is documented about 6 weeks ago in one of these threads Bernie provides

By contrast you all have been 100%% wrong.

That said, I will now, at this early date make my general election prediction for District 4.
Even though Ron is pandering for votes with his lastest antics. AKA "road map" BTW stolen from fellow GOP Paul Ryan (hows that Medicare thingy goin' fer ya?) Ron will gain some votes he has lost, however, not enough.

My official prediction is

53-58% in favor of Parsons

I can not at this point feel comfortable predicting the general for Dowd. It is funny how suddenly everyone has answers of what can be done to keep the place.

Anonymous said...

Trischa accussing someone as posting as someone else......
RICH

Anonymous said...

No business that spends 80% of its capital on employee salary and benefits can be profitable. No matter how many ideas a management firm has about what brand of toilet paper to switch to, they won't bring in the extra $12 million needed next year.

Cicero said...

8:54AM Anonymous
Where did you get the idea that the majoprity of voters favored saving Gracedale. What was the turn out about 10-15 percent. That means somewhere between 85-90 percent stayed home. Why do you think the referrendum was on the primary ballot and not the general election. Why do you think it was tucked away on the voting machine and was so full of legalize you could hardly understand it? Do you know that in PA we are suppose to use "plain language"? The lay offs and tax increaes are coming.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Rhododendron in Bethlehem is a higher priority to Ann McHale than funding Gracedale? I didn't understand that whole exchange. Was that a joke? Who is she saying likes to look at rhododendron? Old people at Gracedale or old people in Bethlehem? And she's supporting the union employees at Gracedale?

Anonymous said...

"After a nine month battle that the county lost in a football style 84-0 ass-kicking contest, I was disappointed to see AFSCME 13 union head Tom Tosti, fire away at county council.

In his outrageous display, he threatened NC with a mandamus lawsuit because they failed to pass the arbitration award for the court services union. And he refused to even allow council 2 weeks to reverse their choice."

They had 4 weeks, why do they need another 2? As far as Mr Tosti firing away at Council, it was Mr Angle that said DEFINATELY N.O. 4 weeks ago. Two weeks later, another definately no. They knew then that it was State law, but didn't care until they knew what could happen. They forced the hand of all the Court Professional group, so don't blame us if someone gives it back to the person that has ridiculed and blasted people for years. Mr Angle has some VERY good ideas, fighting this fight wasn't one of them.

Tricia Mezzacappa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I can say with almost 100% certainty that no member of local 1040 would ever comment on another individuals footwear on this board. To be quite honest, who really cares? Maybe, just maybe, it was someone else in the room. Maybe we can get past the name calling and analysis of clothing and get back to what really matters.

Bi-baby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Dear Cicero,

Your statement embarrasses even your namesake..how did we get the idea that the majority of voters favored Gracedale? Time to head back to italy Cic..You are on a different planet!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cicero. Let's lay off Ron Angle this fall.

Anonymous said...

Referendum is passed and clarifies the slashing process. Angle and Stoffa are in charge, now, still, again. Let the layoffs and downsizing begin. Gracedale needs to be gutted. The poorly written referendum is no impediment to doing what everybody knows needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

"Then vote him[Ron Angle] out."

You heard Bernie, either put up another winning candidate, or shut up.

Anonymous said...

Cicero.........WAY OFF BASE!!!

Tricia........people are SICK of some of the members of Council and Stoffa and their sneaky ways of government! Peoples frustrations are starting to come out and it is about time. Tell me one thing....what has this county council done productive in the past year that has NOT been controversial

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tricia, I apologize for not deleting those anonymous misogynistic remarks sooner.

Anonymous said...

These comments amuse me. Footwear. LOL. Like anyone working for Northampton County could afford nice shoes in the first place.

Tricia Mezzacappa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tricia Mezzacappa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Unless Ann was planning on planting $3 million worth of rhododenron on Commerce Blvd, I don't think it's an issue and we should lay off her. She supports Gracedale and will vote for a tax increase to protect jobs. She's a friend of the people.

Bernie O'Hare said...

McHale is a friend to McHale. She is no "friend of the people."

Anonymous said...

There was a Stoffa 5% tax increase in 2007. That's OK, no one is perfect. Living off the largest cash surplus in county history that Stoffa and this county council inherited, could be achieved by a less than talented chimp. Now we have a test. Lets see if their talent runs deeper than empty political rhetoric and campaign slogans. Past county councils had smart talented p[eople who managed in equally difficult times.

They already stepped in it with the silly and costly vote not to approve an arbitrated decision. As to the union leader, what choice did these assclowns give him. The county is being run by a bunch of Foghorn's leghorns.

Ah, say, Ah say!!

Anonymous said...

Ann did not run for re-election this year assclown.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tricia. No one is going to be happy 100% of the time, no matter who sits on council, or who is in administration. If you dont have the ability to say NO and mean it, then you should not be in county government.

I hope the court union decides to give something back

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"what has this county council done productive in the past year that has NOT been controversial"

Umm, anon, its time for you to crawl out of your padded cell. If you open your eyes, you will see that every level of elected government from federal to local always has controversy.

No controversy = status quo

Front, back, east, west I do not see one elected body, ANYWHERE that is free from controversy.

Where are you living?

Anonymous said...

O'Hare can censor the "truth" it is his blog. the fact is this County Council and Administration inherited the largest surplus in county history.

They have one "real" job and that is the budget. In their infinite wisdom(pun intended), they only funded Gracedale for six months, even though the sale itself may have taken longer.
When this was done by rocket scientist Cusick, Angle and Stoffa, sat silently sucking their thumbs.

The county is still in the nightmare.The Truth of It!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't know if this troll is Reibman crony Daday or Reibman himself. Both are bitter. Both hate Stoffa. Guys, the election was over 6 years ago. Give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

It`s Daday still trying to collect unemployment off the Northampton county tax payers.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, if I may, ignoring most of the comment, I would focus on one point. The half year funding did come across as a political stunt that was ill conceived. Even if the sale flew along, anything was and it is possible in complicated issues. Without the petitions, the sale of Gracedale would still have been complicated till all the "t"'s were crossed and "i"'s dotted.

Quite a few people who both supported and opposed the sale of Gracedale felt that the half year budget was a bit bone headed and showed more a flair for the political dramatic than an understanding of county and governmental operations.

So whoever is mad at who none withstanding, the point about the poor decision on the Gracedale budget is a valid point.

dj said...

Well said anonymous 2:52am


I'm still waiting to have them release the appraised value of the property! Of which by the way is required for the County Executive to have before a sale of a county asset. I find it amazing that Mr. Stoffa completed a budget and funded Gracedale for a full year and there was NO mention for a tax increase and when presented at County Council meeting the then County Prez, Ron Angle told him it was a piece of crap and redid the budget himself and funded Gracedale for only 6 months. So what's wrong with this picture!

Anonymous said...

GOONS, scream , moan and tantrum all you want. Garacedale wont get another dime of county coffers.

NOT ANOTHER PENNY!!!!

GET USED TO IT!!!!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

DJ,

There is NO way the County will publicly release an appraisal before a sale. Are you out of your mind? Appraisals are in fact specifically exempt from the RTKL.

I would recommend against disclosing it to Council, too. McClure and McHale both publicly disclosed information imparted during an exec session.

Anonymous said...

wouldn't that be something if it was found out by NorCo residents that it was worth a lot more than the price that as accepted. wouldn't surprise me. by the way, i am sure you know the appraised value from your buddy, RON

Anonymous said...

hey Bernie, why no comment as to Justus James telling council he has 15 days open in the next month to sit down and try to work things out. One sided post by you putting Angle on a pedestal as usual

Bernie O'Hare said...

James did say that, and tied to act like a football coach, asking people if they're on his team. I did not mention it. I've never pretended that I'm an objective source of information, but did not mention what James said bc I do not think it has much to do w/ my story. Union negotiations take place with the admin, not County Council.

Anonymous said...

Of course you would not mention it Bernie because it would show that the union IS willing to sit down and talk. Amazing.....you would not think twice to write or post all your negative BS against them though! FYI.....not a union person either, just wish you would say the facts about the issue ALL AROUND and not just fluffing Ron's feathers! People need to either go to the meetings themselves or view on the web because your "reporting" is not reporting, it is strictly your opinion/agenda for or against something.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I did not mention it bc it had nothing to do with my story, which detailed the efforts Council was making. As indicated, I do not consider myself an objective source.

I consider myself a blogger with a POV, and I will express that view, whether you like it or not.

Here you are, on a Monday night, still clanking away about a story that posted Friday morning.

Anonymous said...

Should have invested the money back into Gracedale when it made money instead of putting it back into the general fund, now some mental midget on council decides that this is way the county should go,what brilliant minds the people of Northampton county have on council.Bernie where was the so called bulldog when this was going on.

Bernie O'Hare said...

On several occasions in his 12 years on Council, Angle has expressed frustration with capital needs at Gracedale and the need to put more money into it. It is pretty much thanks to him that the County finally attacked and solved that window problem.

He has also been amazed at the wide variances in the budget each year, the decreasing reimbursements, the declining census, and general unaccountability by the Gracedale administration.

Although he feels Gracedale should be sold, he has been overruled by the people and must make every effort he can to try to make it profitable. Frankly, I don't think it's possible, but Council has an obligation to try and make it work.

Save the name-calling for the election.