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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shit Wars Continue in Upper Mount Bethel

One of the signs residents claim do not exist
It's Christmas time. Time to put logs on the fire, not to discuss the logs we drop into the toilet. So I bet colorful land owner and former NorCo Council member Ron Angle $5 that no more than 50 people would bother to show up for a hastily-scheduled meeting between Christmas and New Year. There's already been a big meeting about Angle's plans to spread shit, more politely referred to as biosolids, on his farms. But I'm $5 poorer. People in Upper Mount Bethel really take their turds seriously. Nearly 200 of them crammed into the Mount Bethel Fire House last night for yet another powwow. They came in angry, in the mood for a good ol' fashioned lynching. But by the end of the night, some sludge opponents even liked what Angle had to say. One sludge opponent even told a typical Angle heckler to "shut the fuck up." The tide may have turned in shit wars. In the end, it's not about shit at all. It's about the farmer. Let me give you the flush-by-flush.

Ron Angle doesn't give a shit
Upper Mount Bethel has five Supervisors, chaired by Judy Henckel. She lost a primary re-election bid. Her critics have claimed she was wasting the Township's open space money to buy steep slopes, cliffs and bogs. Though a survey of Township residents indicates that farmland preservation is their top priority, she refused to spend a nickel to preserve Upper Mount Bethel farms.

She's no friend to farmers.

Angle, on the other hand owns several farms in Northampton County. He has never developed a property. In fact, he once told me he does not even consider himself the owner of the lands titled in his name. He said he is just a caretaker, and the land will be here long after he is gone.

He is no friend to Judy Henckel.

Ron Karsek, 15-year Township Solicitor
But one thing Angle does care about is farming. "If we lose farming in the Township, we ultimately will lose the beauty of the Township," he warned. 

He told the still angry crowd that at one time, there were 50-60 dairy farms in Upper Mount Bethel. Now there might be two, thanks in large part to governmental interference in milk prices.

In an effort to save the dairy farmer, our government destroyed him. A visit to what was once the proud Crivellaro dairy farm is all the proof you should need.

"They don't fix the price of gasoline, but they fix the price of milk," Angle complained.

Most of the remaining farms in Upper Mount Bethel are now crop farms, Angle noted, adding that agriculture is the biggest business in Pennsylvania. But even these farmers are in trouble. Corn fetched $8 a bushel just last year. This year, it is half that price, which means less money in a farmer's pocket.

"What are we really doing for the farmers?" he asked. "When last have any of you stopped at a farm and said thanks for the cornflakes I had this morning?" he asked. He then noted that the Township, instead of spending one cent on the farmer, has thrown $5500 per acre to buy development rights on swamps and bog land that is not developable.

Angle pointed out that his tenant farmers pay $150,000 for fertilizer on his Township farms when they could use treated shit and lime for nothing.

All they needed were bingo cards

Angle said he would stop talking shit is Supervisors would use open space money to buy fertilizer for qualified farmers, instead of swamps.
Angle's proposal was actually first advanced by Township watchdog Anthoni Scott a few weeks ago. Henckel tried to brush him asid then and again last night. She insisted the proposal is illegal and refused to recognize Scott until everyone else had spoken.

When he finally was allowed to speak, Scott noted simply that "[t]he farmer has a right to survive."

Two people other than Angle did seem to buy into Scott's idea.

One was Ron Karasek, the Township Solicitor. He told residents that any attempt to prevent Angle from spreading shit on his lands would likely fail. But he feels that devoting open space money to subsidize farmers, under a program in which all farmers can participate, is much more likely to withstand a court challenge.

The second person buying into Angle's idea is one of the leading anti-shit advocates. Sue DeGenaro, who helped form a "No Sludge" Facebook page, told Supervisors that Scott's subsidy proposal should be considered. She said the matter would have to go to referendum and that funds could be used on a sliding scale to subsidize farmers who adhere to "sustainable organic practices."

There was still a procession of residents.

Joe Gorman, an Irishman, spoke in a heavy brogue about a "community bill of rights," which so far has failed every time it has been challenged. He lectured everyone about our rights as Americans.

Daree Sicher, from Berks County's United Sludge-Free Alliance, waved six studies showing the potential harm caused by shit and insisted "these are not local turds," but would be coming from New York and even ... Delaware.

Point by point, Sicher was refuted by Synagro's Pete Price, whose company will be applying the sludge. He pointed out the shit  is pretreated, that infectious waste is not even sent to sewage disposal units, and added that the turds in fact will be Easton and Allentown turds. No Delaware turds. Sicher, a high school graduate whom the Sierra Club considers a "sludge expert," confused Dover, Delaware with Dover Township, which is located here in Pennsylvania.

One resident complained that too much attention is being paid to farmers. "What about me? she asked. "We do matter, not just the farmers."

Supervisors voted unanimously to drop the injunction they voted on at their last meeting. Then, after a brief executive session, they voted 4-1 to try to come up with a plan to subsidize farmers. Judith Henckel dissented, claiming the plan is illegal and a misuse of "open space funds for private person's profits."

Under that logic, every penny spent to buy steep cliffs and bog lands was also a misuse of open space funds because that money enriched people, including a millionaire realtor.

Incidentally Angle is not subsidized by this plan. The money would go to the farmers who work his land, not him.

Henckel also complained that Angle has "finally found a way to scuttle open space."

But Supervisor Larry Hallett took her to task. "Do you want to solve this, Judy, or do you just want it to hang out forever?"

There were still grumblers. Howard Klein, a Supervisor from Lower Mount Bethel, demanded that Angle produce his "contract" with Synagro. Price, the Synagro rep, told Klein there is no contract.

Supervisors will meet again on January 6 to reorganize and to hear more about the "community bill of rights." A lawyer with an advocacy group has been unable to appear at two meetings to explain why it is legal and has yet to speak to Solicitor Ron Karaseck.

Incidentally, yesterday was Angle's birthday. 


Anonymous said...

Damn. Sounds like a shit storm has hit the area. Difficult to follow it all, but you are writing about it well enough to follow.

Approved use of treated human shit isn't approved by those who don't mind cow, or horse shit, but do mind the thought that they might have to eat Angle's shit.

Anonymous said...

That jerk off from Ireland can just pick up his visa and go back to wherever he carpet bagged in from. Like an asshole be wants to lecture us about OUR constitution? Go home slimy limy

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Ron! My gift is a truckload of sludge to you. Of course only the best turds from your neighbors!

Celtic Warrior said...

Bernie O'hara, take your anon clown sock puppets back to the underbelly of the courthouse and leave real Irish folk alone. Your blog is a waste of space.

M smith said...

first of all if you are going to report on what was said at the meeting try reporting the truth. maybe one person was happy to hear what Angle said. probably you! and if angle is helping the farmers lets ask residents how many people will buy products from the farmers if they use sludge on their lands. I bet not many so if the farmers can't sell their product who is angle really helping?? oh wait he would be helping the farmers that don't use sludge so yea moron. If you are so fond of this shit then lets put it in your backyard.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I would reply, but you can't argue with ignorant people.