Six municipalities - Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township, Lower Saucon Township, Hanover Township, Freemansburg and Fountain Hill - all help fund the library. All, excepting Fountain Hill, will see an increase next year.
According to the latest census figures, population in the Township has risen 21,171 to 23,730 over the past ten years, and each person is assessed $17.25.
Commissioner Michael Hudak complained that the "library runs on its own, without any oversight." He resents the library "dictating to us what we owe." But the library staff reports to a 14-person board that includes representatives from each of the six member municipalities. Bethlehem Township has two representatives, including Janet Barry and Commissioner Nolan.
Arthur Murphy, President of Bethlehem Township's Board, thinks the Township should start its own library in a portion of the Community Center.
"The last people I know who use the library are young mothers who take their kids down there and read stories and getting mostly stuff like that," noted Murphy, who stated the Township could do that itself. "Just what services do they provide to Bethlehem Township, other than having a big library up there and we're free to go into it and take out books and use their computers?" he asked. Hudak agreed, stating that information is at everyone's "fingertips," thanks to the Internet.
According the the library's 2010 annual report, 46% of the Township's population are cardholders.
Unlike Murphy and Hudak, Commissioner Jerry Batcha believes pulling out of the Bethlehem Area Public Library would be a mistake because the Township would be unable to provide the same level of service on an ongoing basis with $409,000. "Unless the intent is not to provide that service," Batcha pointedly remarked. Nolan agreed with Batcha, arguing that Township officials should instead urge the library to be more careful with their costs.
So with two in favor of leaving and two in favor of staying, that makes Commissioner Paul Weiss the swing vote. He listened.