Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gaming Board to Brown: Exec Director Stays!

Karen Collis
Last Thursday, Northampton County Executive John Brown requested the Gaming Board to replace its current Executive Director with Diane Donaher, his Director of Community and Economic Development. He reasoned that Donaher, unlike current Executive Director Karen Collis, reports to him directly and thus would ensure the "highest visibility and support for the Authority." But at their March 24 meeting, the Gaming Board said thanks, but no thanks. Unanimously.

In their January meeting, one attended by Brown, the Gaming Board unanimously appointed Karen Collis, a County economic development analyst, to the role. Brown had no comment at the time, even though Chairman Jay Finnigan specifically asked him for his input.

"We all took a vote," noted Board member David Heintzelman. "I'd like to keep things the way they are." He went on to tell Donaher that Brown's letter sounded political. "I'm pleased with what we have. ... We voted once on this and now we're going to rescind her job?" Donaher argued that she was a "direct line to the county Executive" and went on to suggest that, like some other authorities, the Gaming Board should have named Collis as an "interim" executive director. She advised that Collis would remain as an analyst .

But Board member David Willard rejected Donaher's admonishment, noting that Executive Brown was in the audience when they voted on an Executive Director in January, "and did not interject at that point that this request would be coming to us. It only came late last week. It puts everybody in kind of a difficult position."

By voice vote, Board members unanimously rejected Brown's request to replace Collis with Donaher. Brown was not at the meeting.

According to Treasurer Tom Nolan, the Gaming Board is sitting on top of $870,036.44 in uncommitted funds, as well as $56.72 in restricted funds. In 2013, Sands Casino paid $1,730,272.78 to the Board. Of that sum, $1,287,000 was distributed.

The Gaming Board then went on to consider grant requests from municipalities impacted by gambling.

Hellertown: Police Chief Robert Shupp has requested $213,155.03 to fund the cost of two police officers, the same request it has made for the last three years. "We feel that the impact is best handled by officers on the street," advised the Chief.

Northampton County: Court Administrator Jill Cicero is requesting $10,000 for interpreter fees. Last year, the County paid $34,000 in interpreter fees.

Northampton County: Drug and Alcohol Administrator Tiffany Rossanese is seeking $184,000 for gambling addiction treatment. "We're seeing an increase in the need for transitional housing," she explained. In addition, over 1,000 inmates were treated in jail concerning gambling addiction. She indicates that many of the people treated also have drug and alcohol addictions.

Lower Saucon: Police Chief Guy Lesser is requesting $29,342 for a police vehicle and $90,482 for the cost of an officer.

Bethlehem: EMS Director Gordon Smith is seeking $128,883, to remount an ambulance onto a new chassis. He explained that Bethlehem has a fleet of seven ambulance, five of which are in use on a daily basis. In addition, Bethlehem is paid by Sands to provide standby services at the Event Center. Smith told Board members that Bethlehem charges $95 per hour for standby services, but it costs the City $131 per hour. He indicated that an ambulance is needed, even though it loses money. "We're losing money doing standby, but in the interest of public safety, we need to be there," he explained.

Bethlehem: Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Director Alicia Karner, along with Artsquest's Jeff Parks, is requesting $75,000 for a sign program directing tourists to different attractions. She noted that 8 million people visit South Bethlehem annually, and that is one of the positive impacts of gambling. Jeff Parks added that, on his daily walks, the most common question he is asked is, "Where is the Sands casino?"

Freemansburg Borough Manager agreed with Parks, stating one of her staff members has made up a little map to the sands for lost tourists. "Give 'em two free Musikfest tickets," Finnigan joked.

Parks added that, with the advent of a Bass Pro shop coming to Bethlehem, the Christmas City will soon surpass Lancaster County as the third largest tourist destination in the state. "As such, we have an obligation to provide a decent way-finding system," he observed.

Karner was the Gaming Board's Executive Director before her departure, and Board member David Heintzelman told her it was nice to see her back. "And asking for 75,000 bucks," wisecracked Finnigan.

Freemansburg: Police Chief Todd Pantuso is seeking $103,723 to replace two aging police cruisers with mechanical issues. Freemansburg has 12 police officers with a fleet of four cars.

Bethlehem Township: Police Captain Gregory J. Gottschall is seeking $99,181 for two police cruisers. In addition, they are seeking $7,049 for a polygraph. The Township has also requested $550,000 for a fire truck, but no one from the fire department was present.

Blogger's Note:

Brown Letter to Gaming Board Chair Jay Finnigan

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

A round of applause to this Board. Thank God they did the right thing and by an unanimous vote. Imagine if the present administration would do the same thing to the Airport Authority or to LVEDC ? Brown is showing more and more complete ignorance of how county Government works and that he wasted a year attending county meetings. What a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Sure would be nice to see some police departments asking for training dollars instead of $50,000 cars especially after seeing this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/24/james-boyd-killed-by-cops_n_5021117.html

Bernie O'Hare said...

I see. An incident in New Mexico means LV cops need more training. Very logical.

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

When Brown had the opportunity to speak at the meeting when the vote was taken, he said nothing....

Anonymous said...

Any idea where the remainder of the money is going?

According to the gaming control boards annual report, in 2012/2013Northampton County share from Slots was $2,792,672 and table games was $992,268 for a whopping total of $3,784,940. Surely they must be using the excess to support the Regional Crime lab.

The real question I have is why there is a differenc in what the gaming control board reports and what the County reports.

Anonymous said...

Boards authorities and commissionions are to be independent of the Executive. In order for them to function, they should be free spirits in every sense of the words "free spirits". The Executives recommend the board members for approval to County Council. They then approve or reject the individuals serving on the board. The executive must never have that undue influence over the actions of the board.

Anonymous said...

They must be handing out free donuts at the meetings and Donaher wants her share!

Anonymous said...

@ 8:09 Well stated and in fact the truth. Brown is going to try to "infect" every independent board and commission in the county, lets hope all of them are wise to this and keep their autonomy

Anonymous said...

1225, it's come down to this -

Shoot first ask questions later.

It use to be protect and defend.

Anonymous said...

4:32 a.m. What planet are you operating on. You have too many erroneous relationships to even comment on.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this money promised to reduce school taxes way before the casino was constructed? What happened???

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:32 is deleted.

Anonymous said...

Why do Northampton Counties municipalites 35 miles away from Mount Airy receive more benefit from Monroe County share than Lehigh County municiplalites receive from the Sands?

It is difficult to understand how some of these grant request have anything to do with the effects of gaming. Maybe it is time to fix this flawed piece of Legislation.

Anonymous said...

"You have too many erroneous relationships to even comment on."

Not true the post was right to the point and all to true. Why do you think it had to go away?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's "too", not "to." When you get out of third grade, come back and blame everything on Stoffa. I think he's hiding that Malaysian flight, too.

Anonymous said...

Finnegan seems to be quite the comedian. Making wise cracks about serious matters. He should quit his day job and become the opening act at the Sands.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's Finnigan, and you should learn to sign your name when taking shots at someone. Humor is what keeps us all from going insane. That explains you.

Anonymous said...

@11:02 you are correct. The gaming revenue was designed to lower property tax in the Commonwealth. Another BS ploy by our legislature. It's time for people to wake up and vote out these sell outs and vote in people who care about the good of society and not what their gang leaders tell them! #stayvigilant

Anonymous said...

Here we go again, the STATE is supposed to give you property relief from the 53% of taxes they take from the casinos. The hosting municipality gets a % for hosting fees and the county gets a % for being the host county. The gaming revenue authority was set up for grants for the contiguous municipalities to offset IMPACT from the casino ie crime goes up, etc. that is what the authority is set up to do grant money for impacts from the casino. Half of that money was given away to lehigh county and Allentown by a joint pact consisting of Lisa Boscola and John Stoffa. For no other reason than they felt bad Allentown didn't get a casino (this is pre coz and everything else Allentown has now). So in a nutshell the old mayor John Callahan never said part of the host fee was for school tax relief and the impact fee is to be used for services that need to be provided to the casino and all the other monies that are taken are for your state tax bill. Hope I didn't lose you but the people responsible for you getting this money is the state house and senate and the governor... Period.

Bernie, can you do a story on the casino law and enlighten those on this blog that have their heads in the sand for the last 8 years?

Bernie O'Hare said...

People are ignorant and will blather on anyway, but i will do a post down the road about this, Maybe next time I cover the gaming board.

Anonymous said...

8:40, you are correct. However, the sales pitch to the public was to use the host fees to lower, or control property tax rates. Indirectly, it has controlled the rate of increase. Most, if not all of the host fee goes toward legacy costs (pensions) in the City of Bethlehem. So, it has kept taxes from rising a lot, but no reductions will be seen until the City gets their pension under control.

Anonymous said...

12:54,
The way the Casino Law is written, any municipality in a county adjacent to Monroe can apply for grants from the Mount Airy proceeds. The funds in the Mount Airy case are distributed by Harrisburg. Monroe does not have a Gaming Board. These boards were an option to the state deciding where the funds go.
In addition to funding for needs that are a direct result of gambling, there is also "non-impact" funding that is used for any project deemed worthy. It is allocated in a separate round of grant requests.

Anonymous said...

How often do we hear about the host fees going to property tax, like a million times. The host fees is to offset the effect of the casino NOT lower taxes! The lowering of property taxes was supposed to come from the state, not sure if it has.

Also, Bernie what is that $56.72 in restricted funds for?

Anonymous said...

Will the explanation be real or revised history. the real history is an agreement was written up and Northampton County gave away 52% of its revenue from the casinos to Lehigh County and Allentown.

Now that is fact. A fact some do not like and pretend did not occur but a fact none the less.

Anonymous said...

I really don't care about the casino board.

I do care about the continued lack of good decision making from John Brown. He's just not a guy who strikes you as one who thinks things through before acting.

There are bigger problems he should be focused on.

Anonymous said...

The last thing from a citizen's perspective that Hellertown and Lower Saucon need is more cops.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A citizen's perspective or a criminal?

Anonymous said...

1229. So what you are say in is that Northampton County municipalities can apply for for non impact projects using Monroe county money, however, there is no such benefit for Lehigh County? If that is indeed the case, then maybe a set percentage of all gaming should go to the commonwealth for the benefit of non host municipalities.

Has Bethlehem applied for and received ANY gaming money from Northampton County's share or even worse...Monroe County?

Anonymous said...

7:00PM,
1.)Yes, Northampton County municipalities can apply for Monroe funds. The Commonwealth administers the funds for areas where the option of a Gaming Board was not exercised. Lehigh isn't adjacent to Monroe, so Lehigh is ineligible to apply. I do believe that Bucks doesn't have a Gaming Board, so Lehigh municipalities could apply there, as Bucks is an adjacent county. (Parxx Casino is in Bucks) 2.)The advantage of the Gaming Board at the county level is that it practically insures that the money will stay local. 3.)Yes, Bethlehem receives the host fee, and was granted additional Northampton funds last year for fire apparatus and a hazmat vehicle.

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/01/gaming_grant_helps_bethlehem_f.html

Anonymous said...

Out of Lehigh County's share, 60 percent goes to Allentown. The Country keeps 35%. Only 5% is available for the rest of Lehigh County. Time to fix this awful legislation.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it Mr. Brown is trying to take over control of all the authorities and boards. Heard the airport authority, GPA and IDA are in his cross hairs now. He wants to control where the money goes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The GPA and IDA apparently have put Donaher in as their Exec Director, according to what she told the Gaming Board. It's not really being lobbied as a takeover, but a plan for better communication. I would be careful about all his appointments.